Australian Open 2020: Tantrums, smashed rackets part of tennis folklore

When it comes to tennis, it's not just rackets that are highly strung.

But why, of all the sports, does tennis produce volatile players and volatile behaviour?

Accodring to experts, many factors, including ego and entitlement, are at play, as is the very nature of the contest.

"Tennis is a one-on-one, intensive, competitive arena," says NZ sports psychologist Gary Hermansson.

And with big money and status on the line, intense settings bring out intense emotions.  

"It's not physical life or death, but it's certainly emotional life or death," says Hermansson. "For some, there are major rewards that go with it as well."

But when things go badly, something has to give…

This week, John McEnroe was a commentator at the Australian Open, but he was the original tantrum thrower - the one by which all others are measured.

"Some players, like McEnroe and that, whether they do it consciously or subconsciously, use it as a way to get into the game and impose themselves" says Hermansson. 

Serena Williams melts down at the 2018 US Open
Serena Williams melts down at the 2018 US Open. Photo credit: Getty

These days, Australia's so-called 'bad boy', Nick Kyrgios, is the flag-bearer.

While most offenders seem to be male, Serena Williams' meltdown at the 2018 US Open final will live on in many memories.

So do tantrums achieve anything, apart from provide entertainment? Again, it varies. 

For some, they refocus the mind - for others, they're the beginning of the end.