Marcos Baghdatis' minute of racket rage was a big hit on YouTube and the talk of the locker room at the Australian Open yesterday, but Andy Murray reckons that modern players are saints compared with some of their predecessors.
"I saw clips of McEnroe yesterday," Murray said. "He was playing Anders Jarryd in Sweden. He was smashing bottles into the stand. Then Baghdatis smashes a couple of rackets and people say it's a huge thing. The guys before were way worse behaved and said way worse things to the umpires. It's mild compared with what happened."
Baghdatis was fined about £800 for his tantrum, which came in the third set of his defeat by Stanislas Wawrinka. The 26-year-old Cypriot smashed four rackets in succession, the last two without taking off the plastic wrapping.
"If they had the rules that they have in place now, it would be interesting to see what would happen to some of the older players with the things that they did, to see the fines they would be racking up," Murray said. "They'd be getting defaults left, right and centre. Beforehand they were much more lenient. I would like to see someone try now the things that McEnroe would have done to see what would happen to them.
"If I swear on the court, I get asked about a hundred questions about it. Before, guys were swearing at umpires, swearing at ball kids, people in the stands. I've taken my fair share of stick for saying stuff on the court that was very, very mild compared with what the guys used to before."
Nevertheless, Baghdatis' outburst drew plenty of attention from other players. "Four, it's a lot," was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's verdict. "I've never done that – that's impressive, wow," Serena Williams said. Novak Djokovic had heard about the incident but not seen it. "I'm going to go to YouTube now to check it out," the world No 1 said. Djokovic used to demolish a racket or two, but is a reformed character. "I'm not doing it as often," he said. "But when I smash the racket I usually feel relieved afterwards. I feel that the pressure is out. But I feel a bit embarrassed as well."
Williams admitted: "I actually used to break a lot of rackets on the court. I sometimes break them in practice, just not in a match any more."
Even some of the more mild-mannered players have enjoyed smashing times. "You might be surprised, but I do smash rackets sometimes," Ana Ivanovic said. "Last time I smashed three rackets. I think that was the 2009 US Open. I lost a match after having match point. I was quite upset."
Roger Federer could throw rackets and tantrums in his younger days, though Rafael Nadal has always been a model of self-control. Toni Nadal, his uncle and coach, told him that to break a racket was a lack of respect for the people who made it and for those who could not afford to buy one.
Tsonga was brought up similarly. The Frenchman said: "My father told me all the time: 'If you break the racket, I'll break you'. So I go easy with the racket. Sometimes I prefer to hit myself rather than the racket." Others feel they cannot afford to demolish their equipment. "I have 10 rackets," Milos Raonic said. "I don't have any to break."
Seven players have been fined in Melbourne for abusing rackets . The biggest penalty ($8,000) was handed to David Nalbandian, who threw his racket into a wall after losing the fourth set to John Isner. A ball boy handed the racket back to the Argentine, who promptly threw it into the crowd. Nalbandian then smashed his racket after putting a volley in the net on match point.
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