Nick Kyrgios Miami Open 2022

Worst meltdowns on the court in tennis history

The passion of players out on the court fuels the game at the highest level. It would be naive to suggest that court meltdowns are not entertaining and add a lot of excitement to highly skilled and competitive tennis matches.

Many of us who play the sport know how frustrating it can be, even just to play against a friend. When the stakes are multiplied immeasurably, and you’re playing to an audience of millions with millions of dollars of prize money at stake, it is easy to understand why some players lose their cool.

Not only are millions of dollars at stake for the players, but sportsbooks also see considerable action during the peaks of grand slam tournaments such as Wimbledon and the US Open. You can use sportsbook bonuses in the US to place a wager on a tennis game online. Throughout the history of tennis, there have been some monumental meltdowns. Some have been more iconic than others, and today we will look at the most memorable ones on our list.


Nick Kyrgios vs Jannik Skinner – Miami Open 2022

The Australian enigma is no stranger to regular meltdowns on the tennis court. He is often seen gesticulating towards line judges, arguing with umpires and destroying half of the rackets he carries out onto the court. In all honesty, we could write a piece solely on Kyrgios’s meltdowns on the court over the last few years. If we’re going to pick one, though, we will probably go for his spectacular display of immaturity at this year’s Miami Open.

His usual disrespect to the umpire also included smashing rackets and taking aim at a fan trying to take a selfie during the bizarre and sorry spectacle. This followed a similar path to the usual behavior that Kyrgios generally tends to display. It even received criticism from John McEnroe, who was no stranger to losing his cool on the court now and again.


John McEnroe vs Tom Gulliskon – Wimbledon 1981

There have been bigger meltdowns since McEnroe’s Wimbledon meltdown, but it is one of the most iconic moments in tennis history. The now famous “you cannot be serious!” line is still attached to McEnroe, even to this day, decades after his retirement.

One of the truly great players of his era, McEnroe’s attitude and tenacity were unmatched. Although this boiled over into meltdowns, he was a player of immense skill and highly respected among players and fans. Many regard him as one of the greats of all time, alongside the likes of Federer, Djokovic, Sampras and Nadal.


Serena Williams at the 2009 US Open

Serena, much like McEnroe, is one of the greatest players of all time. Her dominance of women’s tennis has been marvelous to watch. However, like many high-level sportspeople, she has a winning mentality, which sometimes boils over in the heat of a tense, high-stakes game.

This happened in the semi-final match against Kim Clijsters back in 2009. During a pivotal moment in the game, the line judge ruled that Serena had committed a foul. She then physically threatened the line judge, which resulted in the umpire having to step in and mediate to relieve the tense situation.

Meltdowns are commonplace in today’s game, but the act of intimidating an official hadn’t occurred in a grand slam tournament before. Serena apologized the next day and began working on controlling her aggression on the court due to this high-profile incident.

While it is no excuse for the behavior, the incident was settled with a fine and an apology, and the matter was considered closed from this point. Despite having meltdowns after this infamous 2009 incident, they were nowhere near the same level of ferocity or caused anywhere near the same levels of controversy. This suggests that Serena learned from her on-court outburst and learned to channel that aggression into a winning formula on the court, as she went on to dominate female tennis in the 2010s. This highlights the positive changes that can come from these meltdowns, which can often cross boundaries and create negative headlines.



Some players are more prone to vicious outbursts than others. We have covered the main culprits in this piece. However, there are plenty of historical examples of players who have thrown their toys out of the stroller. We have merely scratched the surface with this article today. As long as players like Nick Kyrgios are still playing, we certainly won’t be short on any explosive outbursts on the professional tennis court, that is for certain.

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.