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Five Tennis players who were forced to withdraw from Grand Slams

Published at :June 2, 2021 at 1:31 AM
Modified at :June 2, 2021 at 1:35 AM
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Shaunak Ghosh

These high-profile stars have defaulted from major tennis tournaments in the past.

Grand Slams in tennis are the events that make a great player into a legend. Players eagerly wait for each of the four annually held competitions. While some big-name players enhance their reputation in the Grand Slams, other lesser-known faces burst onto the scene in these famous tournaments.

However, over the years, there have been some players who have been unlucky or completely lost their head with the entire world watching on. An ignominious exit is what followed for these famous faces of the game.

Let's take a look at five players who were forced to withdraw from major Grand Slams:

5. Earl Cochell - 1951 US Open

One of the earliest Grand Slam withdrawals took place way back in the year 1951. World No.6 Earl Cochell was all set for his home Grand Slam event. A confident Cochell was ready for the eagerly anticipated US Open, having been a two-time quarter-finalist before.

However, things took a turn in his third-round match versus compatriot Gardnar Mulloy. Cochell, who was well-known for his fiery temper and an intractably independent streak, became angry over a line call and tried to address the crowd by climbing the chair umpire's ladder to take the microphone. The umpire stopped the player from doing so.

Cochell then got embroiled in a locker room confrontation over the incident with tournament referee Ellsworth Davenport. He insulted Davenport with such obscenity that the United States Tennis Association gave him a lifetime ban. Cochell was well past his prime when the ban was eventually lifted 11 years later in 1962. He made only a couple of court appearances after the incident and was no longer a serious competitor.

4. Jeff Tarango - 1995 Wimbledon

Tarango had an argument with the chair umpire.

At Wimbledon in 1995, another infamous incident took place. Jeff Tarango was up against German Alexander Mronz in the third round. Trailing by 6-7, 1-3 Tarango became infuriated with French chair umpire Bruno Rebeuh in the third round. During the match, when preparing to serve, the crowd heckled Tarango and he responded "Oh, shut up!" Rebeuh immediately issued a code violation to Tarango on the grounds of audible obscenity.

Tarango protested this and called for the tournament referee to remove the chair umpire. But, Tarango was instructed to continue to play. He then accused Rebeuh of being "one of the most corrupt officials in the game", to which Rebeuh gave Tarango another code violation, this time for unsportsmanlike conduct. Tarango took umbrage, packed up his rackets and stormed off the court.

To add insult to injury, the American's wife slapped Rebeuh twice in the face. Jeff Tarango was eventually banned by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) from the following year's Wimbledon.

3. Naomi Osaka - 2021 French Open

The latest incident took place on Monday, involving global superstar Naomi Osaka. In a social media post, the Japanese player had announced that she wouldn't be addressing press conferences at the Roland Garros. In her first-round match, she comfortably defeated Romanian Maria Patricia Tig. However, she didn't address the media after that.

The authorities didn't take Osaka's actions lightly, fining her $15,000. They also announced that the 23-year-old's continual stance would lead to her expulsion. Later, she withdrew from the French Open citing mental health issues. Osaka had suffered long bouts of depression after the 2018 US Open.

Several sports stars came out in support of the four-time Grand Slam champion. Serena Williams and Nico Rosberg were some of the big names who supported Osaka. Naomi Osaka's withdrawal now leaves a dark cloud over the ongoing Roland Garros carnival.

2. John McEnroe - 1990 Australian Open

Legendary American tennis player John McEnroe was famous for his notorious tantrums. The most notable of them took place in the 1990 Australian Open. McEnroe was one of the most dominating names in the professional sport back then. He had won three Wimbledon and four US Open titles between 1979 and 1984, against formidable opponents such as Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl. In total, he had won 17 Grand Slams including nine in men's doubles and one in mixed doubles.

Nicknamed "Superbrat", the American faced Sweden's Mikael Pernfors. Thinking a bad call went against him, the trouble started in the third set. McEnroe stood in front of the lineswoman and began glaring at her. The chair umpire, Gerry Armstrong, gave him a code of conduct violation for unsportsmanlike conduct. In the seventh game of the fourth set, McEnroe threw his racket to the ground, where it bounced on the court's hard surface. He then shouted at a fan whose baby was crying.

Tournament supervisor Ken Farrar soon arrived on the scene. McEnroe started abusing him, with his swears audible to spectators and television viewers. He was disqualified on the spot. John McEnroe thus became one of the few players to be thrown out of a Grand Slam.

1. Novak Djokovic - 2020 US Open

Australian Open Novak Djokovic
Djokovic chucked his racquet on the ground so hard that it accidentally hit the line judge on the throat

One of the most memorable defaults took place in last year's US Open. The World No.1 took on Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta in the Round of 16. The match lasted less than one set. Falling 6-5 behind, Djokovic hit the ball away in disgust. It accidentally hit the line judge in the throat, which saw her writhing in pain.

The Serbian pleaded his case to the umpire and tournament referee Soeren Friemel. His US Open was over, after a 10 minutes discussion. Irked by the incident, Djokovic went straight into his car and left the Flushing Meadows in New York without speaking to the reporters.

Djokovic later posted an apology on social media. However, the United States Tennis Association docked all his ranking points that he would have earned in the tournament. They also fined him the prize money that he would have received. It turned out to be a rare blip in the career of the 18-time Grand Slam champion.

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