The Worst of Tennis 2012

While 2012 was in many ways a historic year for tennis with some truly memorable performances and achievements, the season also brought plenty of ugly incidents, public humiliations and lingering controversies that probably won’t find any resolution next year.

Here then is a look back at those who might deserve a quick smack on the wrist. Or two.

Class Dismissed

Matches can get tense when a lot is on the line. But does that mean decorum and sportsmanship have to be ignored? The season saw plenty of groan inducing on-court moments that probably didn’t earn any of the players involved any new fans.

The ones that stick out the most were Liezel Huber’s questionable non-call on a double bounce in Melbourne, Tomas Berdych, also in Melbourne, refusing to shake Nicolas Almagro’s hand, Agnieszka Radwanska’s drive-by handshake diss of Victoria Azarenka in Doha, Azarenka and Maria Sharapova’s shoulder bump in Stuttgart and Janko Tipsarevic, who instead of allowing Jerzy Janowicz to beat him outright in Bercy, decided it was just all too much and retired with “sudden fatigue”.

The Kick Outside

David Nalbandian’s “kick seen ’round the world” was one of the moments that if you were watching the match live you couldn’t believe actually happened.

While a police investigation brought on by a complaint by the linesman went nowhere, many thought Nalbandian should have received more punishment or even a suspension from playing. But for those who don’t think the Argentine was truly sorry for his actions, just look at his results after the event. He won only won one time in six matches after Queen’s before ending his season just before the U.S. Open with an injury.

Kicking the linesman was stupid, but it’s pretty fair to say Nalbandian is probably still kicking himself about doing it.

Dirty Hysteria
While it wasn’t a surprise that the very public fall into disgrace of former Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong unleashed an avalanche of articles on doping in tennis, an issue that before had earned barely lukewarm acknowledgement, I was more surprised at the amount of “coverage” (I use that word in quotes) that ensued basically consisting of speculative attacks, “this is what we think is happening” reporting and smug pronouncements that the whole sport was dirty.

Where was all this outrage during the Wayne Odesnik incident a few years ago? Why did so many media outlets bloom with doping coverage after, but not before, the Armstrong decision? Were they that desperate to gain page views?

I’m not naïve to say that doping in tennis doesn’t exist and that the current testing system doesn’t need improving, but if the big doping scandal in tennis does indeed go down as many are predicting, then I hope these same finger pointers will actually contribute real facts next time, instead of sitting on the sidelines saying “I told you so.”

Diverging Interests

The issue of prize money was raised again, especially with regards to increasing earnings for those who lose in the early rounds of the biggest events. But some players on the ATP Tour took it a step further by saying that the women competing at the Majors should earn less than the men.

Whether one agrees or not with the “quantity over quality” argument, I wonder if this is really a smokescreen for a bigger issue within the men’s tour – the cold fact that so many seemed to have given up all hope of ever beating the “big four”. When you have even top ten players saying publicly that it’s near impossible to defeat the elite quartet, it makes you wonder if men’s tennis really is “more interesting” especially when the same four guys keep winning the tour’s biggest prizes, over and over again.

Take It Like a Man
“I have to say that she played unbelievably today. Her topspin and her serve, I mean, she played like a man, and it’s really hard to play against a man. It was driving me crazy on the court today,” Dominika Cibulkova after losing to Sam Stosur at Roland Garros.

I’m hoping that since Domi had to “play a man”, she took her beating like one too.

Why Was It On This Network to Begin With?
If there hadn’t been a rain delay at the All-England Club, how likely do you think Ryan Harrison’s on-air apology for tossing his racquet during Bravo network’s coverage of Olympic tennis would have actually happened?

With Justin Gimelstob at his side serving as his lawyer I guess, I don’t know, Harrison was forced to endure questions about his “un-Olympic” behavior from host Pat O’Brien. The same man who later described Maria and Serena as “the sweethearts of women’s tennis.”

It was unnecessary and humiliating, but at least it didn’t last too long. I’m just surprised Andy Cohen wasn’t brought in at the end to discuss with the whole U.S. team how they really felt about young Harrison’s episode.

Say That Again?
“It was a miscommunication. I apologize that they feel that way, it’s not right.” – Patrick McEnroe after the USTA announced it would reimburse Taylor Townsend’s travel expenses at the U.S. Open.

Bad Boys Get Spanked

While many in the tennis world weren’t on their best behavior during some part of the season, no one came close to Bernard Tomic who has won multiple “worst” awards for both his on and off court performances in 2012.

In January, days after reaching the fourth round of Melbourne, police tried to serve Tomic for parking tickets and reckless driving. His response? Tomic barricaded himself in his home and set off a lengthy standoff.

Tennis-wise, Tomic then staggered through a dismal season that saw his ranking tumble and notched several losses where he admitted he didn’t try hard enough to win. And don’t forget his lashing out at a reporter after he lost in rather poor form to Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open.

He narrowly avoided jail time for his January episode with police and then ended his season by celebrating his 20th birthday that included him getting drunk and then wrestling with a male friend.

Naked. In a hot tub. On top of a high rise apartment building. An episode that was filmed and then broadcast all across Australia.

While most would have gone into seclusion after such a bizarre public moment, Tomic instead brushed it off in a interview as if it really weren’t that big a deal. Australian tennis legend John Newcombe said later he thinks Tomic should “hit bottom” first before trying to resume playing tennis. Others think that all Tomic really needs is a good spanking.

If, to borrow a line from the Pretenders, somebody does sort out Tomic before he remains a ‘punk’ his whole life remains to be seen. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Tomic’s bad boy behavior actually earns him more admirers next year. Except maybe the police.

2012 saw plenty of new lows. But if 2013 does bring a Mayan style doomsday combo of a player’s strike, a doping scandal and more bad behavior from players, we all just might decide to get smashed and partake in a little naked hot tub wrestling while we wait out the storm.

Enjoy the holidays!

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