For a long time, tennis has been a popular sport. Many of the players went on to become celebrities and some of the greatest athletes of all time. With such a large fan base, the athletes and the sport must deal with a certain amount of media attention. As a result, just like any other sport, tennis has had its share of scandals.
Some were trivial quarrels that were quickly forgotten. Such events include a heated exchange between players, a little off comment taken out of context, and so on. Others remained in the public consciousness for longer. This includes, for example, Nick Kyrgios’ harsh comments to Stan Wawrinka about his then-girlfriend Donna Vekic.
The 2018 US Open final between Serena Williams and the umpire, as well as Novak Djokovic’s default from the 2020 US Open after accidentally hitting a linesperson, dominated the news.
Then some incidents drew widespread attention, not only from the tennis community but from the entire world. On that point, here are some of the most famous tennis scandals in the sport’s history.
Shocking Incidents on the Tennis Court
- Maria Sharapova was suspended for a failed drug test.
After defeating Serena Williams to win her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in 2004, Maria Sharapova became an overnight superstar. Due to her accomplishments on the court and various ventures off it, she remained in the limelight for the next decade.
In March 2016, Sharapova announced she was going to reveal something during a press conference. It was widely assumed that the Russian will call it a day on her career. She was taking a break from the sport. The reason, though, was rather different.
During the 2016 Australian Open, the former World No. 1 confirmed that she had failed a drug test. Melodonium was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency at the start of 2016, and she tested positive for it. The substance was present in the medicine she took to treat her health problems while it was still legal to do so until it was prohibited in 2016.
- The visa dispute involving Novak Djokovic and his deportation from Australia
All eyes have been on Novak Djokovic’s next step after it was announced that athletes will be needed to be completely vaccinated to compete in the 2022 Australian Open. The mandate did, however, include a provision allowing players with a valid medical exemption to compete.
Djokovic confirmed on January 4, 2022, that he had been granted an exemption to compete in the tournament. However, he was arrested by the Australian Border Force when he arrived in Australia, claiming that his visa did not match the entry requirements.
Djokovic successfully appealed the judgment in court. The saga continued for the next three days until Djokovic’s visa was once again revoked by the Minister of Immigration.
- At the 2001 Indian Wells Open, Serena and Venus Williams face racist abuse.
In the year 2000, Serena and Venus Williams began to dominate women’s tennis. The sisters’ monopoly at the top of the game was called into doubt because their matches were not particularly competitive. This led to claims that their father, Richard Williams, predetermined the outcome of the matches.
Venus Williams withdrew from the 2001 Indian Wells tournament soon before her semifinal match against her sister, giving her a walkover to the final. Serena Williams won the tournament in three sets over Kim Clijsters. During the game, however, the younger Williams sibling and her family, who were cheering her on from the stands, were booed and even called racial slurs by the audience.
- Sexual assault claims filed by Shuai against a top Chinese politician
Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis star, revealed on her Weibo account on November 2, 2021, that she had been sexually abused by Zhang Gaoli, a powerful politician in China. Her message was quickly removed by the administration, but the post went viral online.
Peng Shuai seemed to vanish once her post was taken down. On social media, the hashtag #whereisPengShuai began to trend. The WTA decided to become involved in the case after days of silence from her side. Steve Simon, the WTA’s CEO and chairman said in a statement that he needed assurances regarding her safety and that the incident should be investigated impartially.
Following that, an email allegedly written by Peng Shuai certifying her safety was received. There were a few video clips of her going on about her actions that were circulated online, but their authenticity was questioned.
By this time, the problem had escalated into a global issue. In the end, the WTA announced in December that all tournaments in China would be suspended immediately. The government had failed to provide assurances that the matter would be handled fairly and transparently, thus the action was taken.
- On-court stabbing by Monica Seles
The largest tennis scandal of all time is also the most damaging. Monica Seles won seven of the eight Grand Slams she competed in between the 1991 and 1993 Australian Opens. She became a dominant force on the tour and was quickly gaining ground on Steffi Graf, who was the leading player of the time.
Gunter Parche, a disturbed supporter of Graf, stabbed Seles between the shoulder blades when she was competing in the Hamburg Open on April 30, 1993. His goal was to harm her so that Graf could reclaim his position as the best player in the world.
Seles did not participate for more than two years after the incident. Her attacker was not appropriately punished, and she no longer felt comfortable playing in Germany as a result.
The episode was and continues to be, one of the most terrible in all of the sports.
She was on her way to becoming one of the most dominant players in tennis history before the incident. Seles subsequently made a comeback, winning one Grand Slam title at the 1996 Australian Open, and going on to have a stellar career.