John McEnroe enraged some stuffier tennis fans but it hasn’t hurt his career. A little bit of bad behaviour can be a delicious thing in sporting combat
Tennis is currently struggling with its latest superbrat, Nick Kyrgios, whose half-hearted performance at the Shanghai Masters earned him a suspension and a £34,000 fine. It’s no surprise that he has been sanctioned by the authorities as his behaviour is at odds with tennis’s self image as a sport that espouses gentility and good manners; think of that white-kit rule at Wimbledon and the exclusivity of tennis clubs. Kyrgios’s antics look more extreme when set in the context of his sport.
Each sport handles it rebels differently. Cricket is considered a “gentle” game but, like any sport, it has had its subverters. Tales of sledging are retold through the years and a lot of players wait to be dismissed when we all know they should be walking to the pavilion.
Related: The Joy of Six: tennis tantrums