Roger Federer. We all know him as a 20-time Grand Slam champion.The 38-year-old is hailed by his peers as the “greatest of all time,” he is renowned for his elegant technical skill, and has a friendly attitude when it comes to the press and social media.
But though he is seen as polite and graceful, you may not realise he also has a history of swearing, smashing tennis rackets, and yelling at the crowd to just “shut up.” In this list, we highlight 10 times the normally mild-mannered Federer went wild in the middle of a tennis match — the times he broke his own equipment in a fit of rage, and the times he landed fines for his sometimes impolite ways.
Let’s start at the very beginning, shall we? Before Federer signed a sponsorship agreement with Uniqlo, he had a relationship with Nike that spanned across two decades. Nakajima, the clothing giant’s former director, first met Federer in the mid-90s and though he said he was” really, really talented,” he was “a bit of a brat on tour.”
Federer changed when he watched highlights of a junior match involving him and the eventual world number one male player Marat Safin, but the only thing television showed were the lowlights — “yelling, screaming, smashing, throwing things.” As Nakajima explains, they were both “bad boys on the court.” The scenes embarrassed Federerer and, according to Nakajima, he “vowed never to do that again.”
Though he has tempered that behavior, he has not eradicated it completely. He still yells, screams, and smashes rackets. Federer and Nadal met in an epic encounter in Miami in 2005. Nadal, 18 at the time, stormed to a two-set lead, only to throw it away and lose 3-2, surrendering the title to the Swiss.
But the final is as notable for Federer’s anger as much as it is for the quality of tennis as Federer threw his racket on the floor in a huff, something he argued post-match may have helped. “I was missing one opportunity after another,” he said, according to the BBC. “I just had enough. I threw it hard. Maybe it did me good, who knows?”
The Italian Open final in May 2006 emphasized Nadal and Federer’s status as the sport’s greatest stars, according to the ATP. It was won by Nadal, who extended his head-to-head record to four wins and one loss against Federer, after another ill-tempered showing from the Swiss. Federer, with his seven Grand Slam titles to that point, was up against the upstart. One British coach called him “the toughest b—— the game had ever seen,”
In Rome, Federer felt the full effect of losing out to his natural-born rival. Toward the end of the final, Federer lost his focus completely, turned to Nadal’s uncle Toni and accused him of coaching illegally. “He was coaching a little bit too much again today,” Federer said after his loss. “Yeah, I caught him in the act.”