MIKE DICKSON: Is pandemic to blame for the rage incidents in tennis?

MIKE DICKSON: Is the pandemic to blame for the spate of rage incidents in tennis? Suspensions HAVE to increase to deal with the John McEnroe tribute acts… it’s clear that fines for millionaires do not work

  • The ATP Tour has been marred by a series of John McEnroe tribute acts recently 
  • Now, the likelihood of bans must increase after a warning from Andrea Gaudenzi 
  • His blast was aimed at the likes of Alex Zverev, Nick Kyrgios and Jenson Brooksby
  • One theory is that the loss of control among men may be related to the pandemic

With the ATP Tour descending into a series of John McEnroe tribute acts with some added racket hurling, the likelihood of player suspensions has to increase.

That is the only way to go after the spate of recent incidents which provoked tour chairman Andrea Gaudenzi to warn that things cannot go on as they are.

Stung by criticism that he is overseeing anarchy from some players, the Italian felt the need to step in.

The likelihood of player suspensions has to increase after rage incidents on the ATP Tour

Footage emerging of 15-year-old French junior Michael Kouame slapping his opponent at the net during an official event in Ghana, within hours of Sportsmail revealing Gaudenzi’s missive to all members, will only have added to the urgency.

His unprecedented blast is aimed at the likes of Alex Zverev, Nick Kyrgios and Jenson Brooksby, who have all been involved in incidents in recent weeks. 

Go back a little further and the list would include other high-profile players, such as Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Italian Fabio Fognini and Frenchman Benoit Paire. All have committed different sins, often racket or verbal abuse. Umpires, line judges and ballkids have been in the firing line, if not always intentionally.

One theory is that the loss of control among the men – it is broadly a male rather than female issue – might be related to the pandemic. Either due to the effects of continuous restrictions on tour, or latterly the relaxation of them leading to a sense of the shackles coming off.

Tour chairman Andrea Gaudenzi (R) has warned players that things cannot go on as they are

What is clear is that fines for millionaires are not having the desired effect.

This means tennis will have to overcome its usual squeamishness about banning players from competing in tournaments.

There are reasons this sanction is used so rarely, as seen after the racket-wielding Zverev threatened an umpire at the Mexican Open in February and escaped with a default, fine and an eight-week suspended ban.

A key factor is that the ATP Tour is a partnership between the players and tournaments, sharing the commercial spoils. The latter are desperate to have as many recognisable faces in attendance as possible, to sell tickets and attract TV eyeballs and media.

A racket-wielding Alexander Zverev threatened an umpire but escaped with a default and fine

It goes to the heart of the Kyrgios conundrum — for all his excesses, he is brilliant at drawing a crowd, especially the elusive younger audience.

The situation is exacerbated by how little has been seen of late of the established, ageing superstars.

Since Wimbledon last summer Roger Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams have played just 10 events between them.

When it comes to cracking down on the outrageous behaviour seen in recent events, we will wait and see if Gaudenzi’s bark is matched by his bite.

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