From the news

The biggest feuds in tennis history

  • ontennis
  • 13 January 2018
  • 12:01

With the Australian Open set to get underway on Monday, we thought it was worth a look at the most bitter feuds in tennis history. There’s Kyrgios vs. Wawrinka, Hewitt vs. Argentina and McEnroe vs. Connors, to name a few.

1 Maria Sharapova vs. Serena Williams

Prior to Wimbledon 2015, Sharapova lobbed this nugget to the press. 'If Serena wants to talk about something personal, she should talk about her relationship and her boyfriend that was married and is getting a divorce and has kids and not draw attention to other things.'

Williams than duly responsed with this towards the Russian. 

'She [Sharapova] begins every interview with, "I'm so happy. I'm so lucky" - it's so boring. She's still not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it.'

The reason for the heartache? Well it seems Sharapova and Williams have dated the same player in the past, believed to be Grigor Dmitrov.

2 Bernard/John Tomic vs. Thomas Drouet

Many a time tennis players have nearly come to blows, but in this case they quite literally did.

Bernard's father, John, assaulted the former's playing partner Drouet outside a Madrid hotel in 2013, and left him bloodied on a sidewalk following an argument over what John perceived to be insubordination.

A Madrid court found John guilty and issued an eight-month sentence that, under Spanish law, didn't require him to serve.

Drouet later went to the press with an account of his six-month stint working with the Tomics, painting a picture of the toxic environment of the time and detailing several instances in which he saw John become physically violent with Bernard too.

3 John McEnroe vs. Jimmy Connors

The two legends were part of a bitter feud that still exists today. Their matches were filled with arguments, disputed line calls, and even the occasional face-to-face confrontation.

They met 34 times between 1977 and 1991 with McEnroe coming out on top 20-14.

Although they only faced-off in two Grand Slam finals, every time they crossed each other’s path, it was an event.

4 James Blake v Lleyton Hewitt

Hewitt got in trouble with his outburst to a line judge during a match with James Blake that veered on the racial side. 

“Look at him and you tell me what the similarity is?” was the Aussie's response to the African-American linesperson.

5 Roger Federer vs. Bernard Tomic

Federer and Tomic traded barbs through the media at the 2016 Australian Open. 

Tomic was offended at suggestions Federer had criticized him for not breaking into the top 10, as the Gold Coaster has vowed to do.

That saw Tomic return fire, declaring the 17-time grand slam winner was a long way short of Novak Djokovic’s current level.

Federer claimed he was taken out of context, but it's what a lot of people are thinking.

6 Lleyton Hewitt vs. Juan Ignacio Chela

Aggravated by Hewitt's famously overt celebrations, the Argentine player spat in Hewitt's direction as the two crossed paths on their way to their courtside seats at a change of ends at the 2005 Australian Open.

Down two sets to one, broken to love and facing a 0-3 deficit in what became the deciding fourth set, Chela appeared to get upset when Hewitt yelled "c'mon" after his opponent hit an unforced error to go down 0-40, and appeared to serve the next ball directly at the No. 3 seed.

He spat towards Hewitt after the Australian muttered something in his opponent's direction as they moved to change ends. 

Chela conceded there had been spitting but not at Hewitt.

"Lleyton thought it was in his direction and at the end of the match I apologized but it was not spitting at Lleyton," Chela said.

7 Nick Kyrgios vs. Stan Wawrinka

Australian bad boy Nick Kyrgios took sledging to a whole new level with a personal barb directed toward Swiss star Stan Wawrinka.

After losing the first set of their match at the Montreal Masters, Kyrgios was heard saying to Wawrinka: "Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that mate."

Kyrgios was referring to fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis and Wawrinka's girlfriend, 19-year-old Croatian Donna Vekic.

It's safe to say that Nick probably isn't on Stan's Christmas card list.

8 Maria Sharapova vs. Jelena Jankovic

Before she locked horns with Serena, Maria Sharapova had a bitter rivalry with childhood nemesis Jelena Jankovic, ever since they trained as young girls at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida.

In 2011, a website reported, "Jelena and her manager mother, Snezana, were hostile to Maria when they were training together in Florida.

"They are both fiercely competitive," she added. "Sharapova doesn't like how Jankovic frequently makes excuses when she loses and doesn't give enough credit to her foes."

Jankovic also expressed, "We always wanted to be better than one another. We were fighting and competing, we were doing anything to win. We were girls at a young age who had rivalries."

9 Lleyton Hewitt vs. David Nalbandian

In the quarterfinals of the same tournament, Hewitt had another tense outing against an Argentinian, this time it was David Nalbandian.

The pair nudged each other’s shoulders on a changeover, and also traded verbal barbs.

Nalbandian said Hewitt had no friends on the tour, adding he was “not a gentleman” and “not the cleanest guy”.

10 Pat Rafter vs. Mark Philippoussis

Tensions reached boiling point between the pair when they contested the 1998 U.S. Open final.

Then Davis Cup coach Tony Roche decided to sit in Rafter’s box during the match, a decision which enraged Philippoussis’ father Nick, who made his feelings known to Roche in no uncertain terms after the match.

Rafter later took aim at Philippoussis in a 2007 magazine column.

"[Philippoussis] has burnt many bridges along the way and has made some very poor decisions in his career,” Rafter wrote.

11 Lleyton Hewitt vs. Guillermo Coria

Coria simply lost it in his press conference after going down to Hewitt in a Davis Cup match in Sydney in 2005.

"Inside the court, you really feel like killing him,” Coria said of Hewitt.

"… As a person, I'd rather not win a single tournament in my life than be like him."

Hewitt returned serve, saying: "He grabbed his private parts at one stage three times in a row, when I was about to serve, so I stopped and asked if he had an issue ... and if he could find it.”

12 Bernard Tomic vs. Pat Rafter

Tomic served it up to Rafter in 2015 after crashing out of Wimbledon. 

"Pat is a nice guy. If the Australian public don't know Pat, he's a good actor, he's well‑spoken, always prepared and knows what to say," Tomic said.

"He doesn't know what he's doing. They are giving him a budget. He doesn't know what he's doing. What's his job? Deal with it, Pat.

"You're the mask. He's a mask for these guys, Craig and Steve. They don't want to deal with this. They give it to Pat, 'you do the work'.

"You take care of this and that. He doesn't know what he's doing. It's crazy. Meanwhile, he's charging me for balls. Charging me for balls and court at his own arena nine days before (a competition). What's he doing?"

Add new comment

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture. Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.