It’s been said that the current era in men’s tennis lacks personality which makes the likes of Fabio Fognini and Gael Monfils stand out amidst the scores of proper, tightlipped, and ultra-professional players on tour.
But when does personality become too much and what is the line players should not cross when it comes to on-court antics and outbursts?
Fognini should know. The Italian was fined a record $27,500 after his opening round at Wimbledon against Alex Kuznetsov.
The No16 seed was docked $20,000 for damaging the court with his racquet, $5,000 for telling Australian official Wayne McKewen he would “smash a racquet in your head” and $2,500 for making an obscene gesture at Kuznetsov.
Those are multiple lines crossed right there.
Fognini’s tirades meant that the ITF Supervisor was out on court for his next match before it even started – anticipating trouble – and his third round against No20 seed Kevin Anderson was purposefully scheduled on Court 17, despite the players’ high seeding which would normally warrant a show court.
“You’re not sure what you’re going to get,” Anderson said about playing Fognini. “I guess that’s the reason we were out on Court 17 today. It sort of lived up to what I thought it was going to be like. A lot of talking. I personally think that’s the way he copes with some of the stress of being on the tour.”
Fognini, who has a long history of disastrous incidents on court, was asked if he was repentant for his antics at Wimbledon. “I will always be the same. Sorry guys,” were his final words in press this week.
When it comes to Fognini, it’s quite easy to see that a majority of his antics are simply unacceptable.
But with other players, temper is not the problem – it’s them being too vocal on court which could be distracting for their opponents.
Monfils spent his entire first round at Wimbledon against Malek Jaziri talking and whining to his friends and appeared to be tanking the opening set – something he’s been accused of doing at the French Open as well. It prompted umpire Mohamed Lahyani to urge the Frenchman to try harder.
“At 3-1 Gael was clearly tanking, talking after each point to the French team,” says ex-WTA player Selima Sfar, who was sitting courtside during the match.
“He was like ‘I don’t want to be playing here on grass, it’s not a surface for me’.
“He’s a very nice guy so I don’t think he would do it to disturb his opponent, but if you see it black and white, it’s not appropriate.
“Professionally, yes he definitely crossed the line. Where you draw the line is, is this an example you want to give to kids? That’s a line for me.”
Lahyani says he doesn’t consider it gamesmanship from Monfils but he confirmed that he had to warn him about tanking early on.
But Monfils was heard on court responding to the Swede saying: “It’s 3-2. This way, when you’re not playing full sometimes, the guy gets down. You know, I’m sneaky.”
Asked whether Monfils crossed the line during the Jaziri match, retired Frenchman and beIN Sports commentator Fabrice Santoro said: “That was I think the limit. You can’t go over this limit because he was already talking too much. If you pass this limit you have to get a warning.
“Gael is like this, I want to say unfortunately. Because sometimes I like to see him more focused on the court. It was the same against (Jiri) Vesely in the second round and that’s probably the main reason why he lost the match, he was talking, he wasn’t very focused.
“Fognini or Gael, they don’t do this on purpose to disturb the opponent. That’s part of their character. I said I don’t want Gael to go over this because it’s not good but also he’s a very charismatic player on tour.
“The same goes for Fognini. Because they are talking, because they are sometimes throwing their racquet and that’s why so many people come to see them on the court.”
Former world No1 Jim Courier agrees with Santoro. The American concedes such players are walking a fine line but that personality doesn’t hurt.
“Gael’s not doing anything outside of the rules when he does that… He was talking to his friends. If it’s not his coach, I guess it’s fine.
“It’s personality, right? You’re talking about it, you’re going to write about it, so that can’t be bad for the sport if he’s doing it.
“For me the fine line is crossed when it looks like a player is not trying – so if they’re tanking a match, that’s a fineable offence and that’s also discretionary for the umpire to decide or the tournament referee.
“Of course if they’re doing things that are interfering with their opposition and taunting the opposition, talking to them directly – that’s out of bounds.”
Monfils had said after his first match that he feels uncomfortable on grass, that he was just being funny and could only play “just some part of the match”.
Asked whether he’d be distracted if he faced a player who was talking all the time, he said: “Every coach will tell you that you should focus on your game, not on the opponent.
“I don't care. If the guy is talking to anyone, it's fine. If he can talk to me, it's even better.”
World No2, Novak Djokovic, who has faced and beaten Monfils nine times throughout his career, says it’s often tough to judge but that he generally welcomes the idea of players showing some charisma on court.
“Gael likes to entertain, to get interaction with the crowd, with his team, which is absolutely fine,” said Djokovic. “I think that tennis is lacking a little bit of personalities to be honest.
“Of course there is importance in the value of each match, you put your game face on when you're on the court. You want to win.
“On the other hand, it's sport. People come to support the tennis, you as a player, but also they would like to see a little bit of your personality. I think that's absolutely fine by me. It's not something that I think has a negative impact on tennis.”
Sport360's tennis expert Reem Abulleil is stationed at Wimbledon throughout the tournament and each day will be providing an alternative outlook on the happenings at SW19.
There have been some interesting people stopping by Wimbledon throughout the week, most recently David Beckham, who was in the Royal Box on Saturday.
The ex-England football captain was a constant fixture on Centre Court and was one of the very few VIPs (along with cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and his wife) who stuck around to watch Maria Sharapova’s match after Rafael Nadal had finished off Mikhail Kukushkin.
Sharapova said she didn’t know who Tendulkar was, but that she met Beckham a few times in LA.
“Besides being an incredible football player, there is so much he’s done in his career, having a family, maintaining so many things off the court. He's really nice person to chat to,” said Maria of Beckham.
Comedian Ricky Gervais also made an appearance and he joined Andy Murray in his warm down on the bike following the Scot’s third round victory.
Murray revealed he used to watch The Office every single night during the time he lived in Spain and was excited to meet Gervais.
Kevin Anderson is also a fan of the comedian and the South African says that both he and Gervais have something in a common – both are huge fans of rapper Eminem. Anderson admits he got a bit star-struck when he met Gervais.
“I was a little nervous. My hand started sweating. It’s just funny, when you’re not used to something it’s amazing what you get nervous about,” said the No20 seed.
I spotted Amelie Mauresmo and Andy Murray hanging out in an area where competitors warm up. The Frenchwoman was kicking about a huge fitness ball and when she hit her target, celebrated by waving to an imaginary audience as Murray sat by smiling. It’s nice to see them so relaxed before a match.
Ever wonder how the players are with the umpires off court? I was chatting to Mohamed Lahyani and another chair umpire when Feliciano Lopez showed up to greet them.
Lopez was joking around and told Lahyani: “Did you see the warning he gave me?” referring to the other official.
I can’t imagine Fabio Fognini having that kind of relationship with the officials but it’s cool to see players get along with umpires.
Kukushkin, who lost to Nadal, is one of very few players coached by females. His wife, Anastasia Kukushkina, is his coach but she was nowhere to be seen. It turns out, she couldn’t get a visa to the UK.
She’s not the only coach to face that problem. Malek Jaziri’s Serbian coach Dejan Petrovic also couldn’t make the trip because he couldn’t get a visa.
You’d think with all the travel these people have to do, they wouldn’t run into such problems, particularly for a huge event like Wimbledon.
Serena Williams could not find an explanation after she suffered her earliest Wimbledon defeat in nine years, falling in three sets to No25 seed Alize Cornet in the third round, but said she doubts the Frenchwoman will play this well in the next match.
It was the world No1’s second defeat of the season to Cornet, having fallen to her in Dubai in February, and the first time Williams missed out on the second week at Wimbledon since she lost to Jill Craybas in the third round back in 2005
This is the first time Williams has not made a major quarter-final in any of the first three slams of the season (when she’s played them) since her debut season in 1998.
This year, she lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open to Ana Ivanovic, and the second round of the French to Garbine Muguruza.
“I think everyone in general plays the match of their lives against me. So I’m pretty sure that the next match, it won’t be the same,” said Williams after the loss.
Asked whether she can put her feelings into context, Williams said: “I don’t think I can. I thought I was playing pretty well. I worked really hard coming into this event.
“It’s okay, though. Sometimes it happens. You work hard, maybe it’s not for today, maybe it’s for tomorrow. So I just got to keep going.”
Cornet, who is now through to the fourth round of a major for just the second time in 34 appearances and the first time at the All England Club, was overjoyed.
“I can’t believe this. Three yearsago I couldn’t even play on grass, I was so bad. This is just a dream and I have to realise it,” said Cornet, who next faces Eugenie Bouchard, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Andrea Petkovic.
Cornet broke in the opening game before rain suspended the match midway through the second.
Upon their return, Williams raced to take the next six games and took a commanding one-set lead.
The momentum shifted and it was Cornet who snatched the next five games. Williams got one of the breaks back but it wasn’t enough as the Frenchwoman served out the set on her second try, with a smooth serve-and-volley point.
Williams survived a marathon opening game of the final set and the match remained on serve until Cornet edged ahead, breaking for a 3-2 lead on her fourth break point of the game with a crushing forehand passing shot.
It started a run of four consecutive games for the No25 seed, who benefitted from a complete lack of game plan from Williams.
On her part, Cornet was aggressive with her shots, moving Williams around and wrong-footing her. But when it came to serving for the match, Williams went completely silent and serious and broke for 3-5 to stay alive in the contest.
But two games later, Cornet did not repeat the same mistake and she got three straight match points when Williams netted a volley. The 24-year-old hit a fearless drop shot and when Williams’ response landed in the net, Cornet dropped to the ground in disbelief, pulling off the biggest upset of her career.
Rain wreaked havoc with the schedule and the match between Ana Ivanovic and last year’s runner- up Sabine Lisicki was suspended for bad light with the latter leading 6-4, 1-1.
Maria Sharapova, who was on collision course for a highly-anticipated quarter-final with Williams, had a bad start on Centre Court before she rallied and won the last 11 games of the match to beat American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-0 and book a fourth round with No8 seed Angelique Kerber.
SERENA'S LAST NINE EFFORTS AT WIMBLEDON
2014 lost to Alize Cornet in the third round
2013 lost to Sabine Lisicki in fourth round
2012 beat Agnieszka Radwanska in final
2011 lost to Marion Bartoli in fourth round
2010 beat Vera Zvonareva in final
2009 beat Venus Williams in final
2008 lost to Venus Williams in final
2007 lost to Justine Henin in quarter-final
2005 lost to Jill Craybas in thir round