This year’s Wimbledon tournament has already seen seven players in the men’s first round retiring before the end of their matches (equalling the record from 2008) which has not only frustrated their opponents but also their fans. So why players would start a match but not finish? The answer, it appears, is quite simple – money. This year saw the prize money for losing the first round rise to $44,000 (up 17% from last year) which appears to be an incentive for some players to start the matches, even if they do not seek to conclude them. However Wimbledon is keen to put a stop to such poor behaviour and seeks to undermine the players’ financial gains through the administration of fines.
Only three days into the tournament fines totalling $33,500 were issued for “unsportsmanlike conduct”. In 1975, the Code of Conduct of the International Tennis Federation, (the world governing body of tennis) was introduced to control the bad behaviour of the men’s game showing that this was, and has always, been an issue. The Code of Conduct is updated yearly and the under Article IV: On Site Offences, paragraph L, the 2017 Code of Conduct it states “Players shall at all times conduct themselves in a sportsmanlike manner and give due regard to the authority of officials and the rights of opponents, spectators and others.”
It appears that numerous players at this year’s championship need to re-read the Code of Conduct, one being Bernard Tomic a 24 year old Australian who lost his first round match to Mischa Zverev in straight sets. Following a press interview Tomic admitted to being bored in the match, lacking motivation and “respect for the game of tennis”. He also admitted to taking an injury timeout as a tactical move to try and unnerve his opponent. Tomic was issued a fine of $15,000, still leaving him with a $29,000 pay-packet. In addition, Head, the sportswear brand and his sponsor have also dropped him.
Tomic isn’t the only player to incur a fine as Daniil Medvedev was handed a fine totalling $14,500 for throwing coins at the umpires chair for accusations of bias following a series of disputes after he lost in 5 sets. Another player, Adrian Mannario was fined a total of $19,725 for incidents in two different games including barging into a ball boy.
The amount of fines issues by Wimbledon appears to be on the rise, from $62,500 in 2015 to $93,500 in 2016, with the 2017 total expected to increase further. To prevent this, some have argued for harsher fines to deter the players from behaving badly.
Interestingly, John McEnroe’s famous on-court tantrum in 1981, in which he shouted to the umpire “you cannot be serious” resulted in a fine of $1500 which was substantially greater than the prize for losing the first round.
As prize money goes up it is perhaps wise to increase the fines to the extent that the players lose a far higher proportion, if not all of their prize money in order to deter them from poor behavior.