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Sportsmanship in Tennis

Andy Roddick's "Yeah, I cost myself the match but I'm a good, honorable person" moment yesterday against Fernando Verdasco got me to thinking about sportsmanship in tennis. 

Now I can easily remember the "foul play" moments in recent tennis history.  There was Justine Henin-Hardenne in her 2003 French Open semifinal against Serena Williams neglecting to mention to the chair umpire that she had raised her hand to indicate she wasn't ready to receive Serena's serve and not allowing Serena to replay the serve.  There was Karolina Sprem at her coming out party last year at Wimbledon when she beat Venus Williams and "failed to notice" that the umpire had given her a free point in the tiebreak.  And there was the Serena Williams-Jennifer Capriati match last year at the U.S. Open when the chair umpire made an obvious bad call and Capriati pretended not to have seen it. 

But when it comes to examples of fair play in tennis, I'm stumped.  I can't think of a single one.  Anyone have a better memory than me?



The Patrick Rafter/Andrei Chesnokov incident comes to mind. Rafter overturned a call in a third-set tiebreak that had been in Rafter's favour, and that gave Chesnokov a match point, which was converted.

Sorry, I can't remember when or where this took place.

Posted by: ChrisM | May 6, 2005 6:16:37 PM

Thanks - I didn't remember that one at all. Figures Rafter would do something like that though. That was always his style.

Posted by: lisen | May 7, 2005 12:20:14 AM

I've got a darn fine example from Scoville Jenkins at last year's National Junior Championships in Kalamazoo that I'm going to post on my website (zootennis.com) today. As everyone knows, Jenkins won the tournament, so he didn't pay the price that Roddick just did, but that's hindsight.

I took a look on your site. Nice story - I never heard it before. I only knew Jenkins from seeing him comprehensively beaten by Andy Roddick in the first round at last year's US Open. But we all have to start somewhere. I'll have to root for him next time.

Posted by: lisen | May 7, 2005 6:10:24 PM

The Swedes have generally been known for their sportsmanlike conduct, especially Magnus Larsson. I don't have any examples off the top of my head but in general they are a fine bunch :)

i think jose higueras had one of the best sportsmanship calls and eventually lost the match but i don't remember any of the details. it was awhile ago....

Posted by: thomas pura | May 8, 2005 9:39:09 AM

And if we're going with Swedes you have to mention Stefan Edberg. He didn't get the ATP sportsmanship award named after him for no reason, but I don't remember specific examples (and he was my favorite player back then - this is not a good sign!).

Posted by: lisen | May 8, 2005 11:51:10 AM

Generally, women are meaner than men, because of their natures! I'm sorry ladies it is true.

In the French Open Final, Roger overturned a call when Rafa's return was called out, he thought that it was good and he was up 40-0. He lost the game, and the ball was actully out.

Posted by: Kelly | Jun 28, 2006 9:57:22 PM

That ball actually did touch the line. The mark on clay was more accurate than French Tv's version of HawkEye. Federer himself has hawk-like eyes and as soon as the call was made, he reached for another ball and told the umpire that the ball was in. I was watching too and it looked pretty much to me that Nadal's ball clipped the baseline. There were many such examples like that about HawkEye disagreeing with the CLEAR MARK on clay, so I wouldn't put too much faith in that story about the 40-0 game. Although, I must say it was bad luck for the Fed that the call was incorrect in the first place and they had to replay the point. But I will admit that it was superb sportsmanship on the Rajah's point to not pull a JHH or J-Cap on that point. Bravo, Raj!

Posted by: momofan | Jun 28, 2006 10:08:05 PM

HEY! i looked on here for a project on sportsmanship..thank you for helping me out! --j.j.

Posted by: Jami Jordan | May 5, 2010 8:01:07 PM

No problem - glad it helped.


Posted by: Mike McIntyre | May 9, 2010 11:15:58 PM

In the good, old days, on side courts, because of a shortage of line officials, players said when shots were in or out and usually they gave their opponents the benefit of the doubt.

In the really old days, when money was not an issue, everybody was honest. Once upon a time, Don Budge was getting ready to dump the next point because the umpire made a bad mistake in his favor. Von Cramm, the great German, told him not to do that because it would embarrass the official. Just play it as it lays, he advised, and privately apologize to your opponent.

Posted by: Sidney Gendin | Jun 3, 2010 5:54:10 AM

hey i am doing a project on fair play can you help me out?

Posted by: hannahbella | Jun 3, 2011 9:06:41 AM

Sure Hannah, email me at protennisfan@hotmail.com with any questions you have.

Posted by: Mike McIntyre | Jun 4, 2011 11:21:49 AM

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