Tennis / Wimbledon '93: Smart money rides on swearing off the swear-words

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The Independent Online
IT IS the tournament every self- respecting tennis player swears by and this year the tournament every disrespectful player is swearing at, writes Trevor Haylett.

By last night's close of the Wimbledon swear box accumulator six players, all men, had been tried and found guilty because when it came to the crunch they were forced to unleash the 'F' word and we are not talking forehands. In contrast the women have been models of comportment. No obscenities, no fines. 'I think we are just more restrained,' Martina Navratilova said, 'we don't spit on the court either, although I'm sure a couple of us would want to. It's just kind of an ugly thing to do, so I think women have been trained to be restrained in that regard.'

For those who have not been happy to let their tennis alone do their talking it has proved very costly. Indeed it almost cost Jim Courier, the world No 2, his place in the event before the Championship's referee, Alan Mills, overruled Jeremy Shales, the umpire for his third round match with Jason Stoltenberg, and changed a 'default' to a warning and a dollars 1,500 ( pounds 1,040) fine.

In contrast, Pete Sampras, who some witnesses thought had sworn at the conclusion of his match on Monday with Andrew Foster, escaped punishment. 'The umpire made no complaint in his report and no court officials made any complaint to the chair umpire. Therefore no action is necessary,' Mills said yesterday.

It makes for an entertaining diversion when the tennis begins to wane to wade through the charge sheets mounting up in respect of the transgressions. They are certainly of value to the players. If they study them and then learn to change their volleys mid- stream they can save a considerable amount of money.

If possible they should aim the 'F' word at the court itself. That rates only a dollars 500 fine (Patrik Kuhnen). The net is a little more sensitive. Swearing at it incurs a dollars 750 fine (Wally Masur). Blasting off at the umpire or the linesman is serious swearing, leading to a dollars 1,000 fine for Goran Ivanisevic and Patrick McEnroe, or dollars 1,500 in the case of Paul Haarhuis. Far better to tell the umpire he 'stinks' and halve the fine to dollars 500 (Todd Witsken).

The worst offence of all though is to tell the press, if only metaphorically, to 'F- off'. Ivanisevic did that after his third-round defeat by Todd Martin in declining to attend the obligatory press conference and was penalised another dollars 2,000.

Leading article, page 21