The calls are growing for the ATP Tour to take a stronger stance on player behaviour.
Alexander's Zverev's eight-week suspended ban and £19,000 fine for attacking an umpire's chair with his racquet at the Mexican Open was largely deemed to be extremely lenient. There was also surprise that Nick Kyrgios was not punished for very nearly injuring a ball boy when he smashed his racquet on the court after losing to Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells. And Jenson Brooksby somehow avoided a default at this week's Miami Open when he flung his racquet down in anger and it hit a ball boy on the foot; apparently only getting a point penalty as he hadn't caused injury.
Zverev striking the umpire's chair in frustration was one of the more shocking tennis incidents in recent years, and the absence of a stronger punishment was surprising to many.
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Serena Williams claimed she would “probably be in jail” if she behaved like Zverev. Andy Murray said the German’s behaviour was “dangerous” and “reckless”. Seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander told Eurosport that Zverev should have been banned.
"If a player breaks his racquet on the umpire's chair and he is literally a few centimetres away from hitting the umpire's leg, he should not be allowed to get on a tennis court until he has gone through some kind of rehab, some kind of time," Wilander told Eurosport.
"We need to punish him accordingly, and allowing him to come out and play professional tennis the week after or two weeks after, that is too soon.
"To me, money does not do it, and I think you either give someone with that behaviour a three-month suspension or a six-month suspension. You do not allow him to play the most important tournaments on his calendar. Now, the most important tournaments are most probably the Grand Slams, the ATP 1000, the Davis Cup.
"I mean, I do not know where you draw the line, but certainly going out and competing in any shape or form straight away, it does not seem like that is very fair to other players.”
Just a few weeks after Zverev attacked the umpire’s chair in Acapulco, Kyrgios’ racquet smash at Indian Wells nearly led to an injury for a ball boy. Watching the incident back it’s shocking to see how bad it could have been if the ball boy wasn’t paying attention – had maybe been looking up into the stands - and hadn’t moved out of the way of the flying racquet.
Kyrgios brushed off the incident in his post-match press conference, seemingly surprised that he was even asked about it and saying it was “not like Zverev”. That, though, significantly played down the potential hurt that could have been caused.
Nadal was firm in his belief that the ATP needs to take a stronger stance.

'ATP should review and make decisions' - Nadal after Kyrgios racquet incident

“The problem is, in my opinion, when you allow the players to do stuff, then you don't know where the line is. And it's a tricky thing. But probably because these situations are happening more and more often, the ATP should review things and make decisions.”
Kyrgios did apologise to the ball boy after the match on Instagram, saying it was a “complete accident” and his racquet took a “crazy bounce”. Zverev was also apologetic on social media.
But is a remorseful post-match apology enough? And should tennis’ governing bodies be doing more to prevent such behaviour before it happens?
Perhaps stronger, strictly-enforced punishments would help. If there was a risk of disqualification for smashing a racquet would players still do it? Taking out frustration on a racquet seems to have become commonplace in recent years, but as soon as the racquet leaves the player's hand there is a risk of potential injury. Disqualification may seem a harsh penalty for a racquet smash, but how else to set clearer boundaries?
Novak Djokovic’s frustration cost him at the 2020 US Open when he whacked a ball towards a line judge after losing a game. He was disqualified from the tournament but was not banned and was only fined half the amount a player can be docked.
Canada’s Denis Shapovalov was involved in a worse incident when he hit an umpire in the eye with a ball during a Davis Cup tie against Great Britain in 2017. Shapovalov struck the ball in frustration and it fractured the eye socket of Arnaud Gabas. Shapovalov was fined just £5,600 by the International Tennis Federation, avoiding the maximum penalty because his actions were deemed to be unintentional.
Neither Djokovic nor Shapovalov hit the ball with malice or intent to harm, but without any firm rules these incidents will continue to happen, at the risk of further injury.

'ATP should review and make decisions' - Nadal after Kyrgios racquet incident

As it stands, the ATP and WTA are responsible for administering fines and punishments to players in the tournaments they hold. The Grand Slam board enforces its own code of conduct at the Grand Slams and the International Tennis Federation runs the show when it comes to events like the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup. Interestingly, the ATP seemed to want to highlight that Zverev’s punishment for hitting the umpire’s chair was decided by just one person, Miro Bratoev.
“Per ATP rules, player major offence determinations are made solely by ATP’s senior vice president of rules & competition, and independently of ATP management and board,” said the ATP in a statement regarding Zverev's suspended ban and fine.
Perhaps an independent body would help improve the situation. Tennis has already shown some willingness to do that with the formation of the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), which deals with corruption and doping issues. The ITIA is independent of the governing bodies and hands out its own decisions on investigations.
Bratoev could have banned Zverev, or even given him a longer suspended ban, but opted just for eight weeks.
Former ATP executive vice president for rules and competition Richard Ings was bemused by the decision, telling the Times: "You’ve got to ask, what did he need to do to be suspended? Break the umpire’s leg? Draw blood? That was as bad as it gets without physically putting the umpire in hospital.
“Suspended sentences are a good tool when the player has a good conduct history, and I’ve used them, but in this case the misconduct was egregious and physically directed at the official in their place of work. A line has been crossed.”
Who will be the next to cross the line? And what will the punishment be then?
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