Tennis has had its fair share of controversies over the years. In a competitive individual sport where players are constantly under high pressure to perform, it comes as no surprise that controversies become a part of the game.
2021 has been no different. It is usually the players who are at the center of these controversies. While some players have retained their spots, there have been other polarizing figures as well. Some of these controversies might even have a valid premise, but as Daniil Medvedev once said, "Bad surface is bad surface."
Here is a look at the five most controversial issues from the world of tennis in 2021:
#5 Australia making vaccines mandatory for 2022
It may be a controversy for 2022, but it is taking shape in 2021. The Australian Open has made it clear that all players must be double vaccinated to play in the 2022 tournament.
"It's been made very clear, when the Premier announced several weeks ago that in order to participate at the Australian Open, to come into Victoria, you’ll need to be fully vaccinated," tournament director Craig Tiley said."
Almost immediately after the announcement was made, it was condemned as well as applauded. Some tennis players thought the move was only fair while others considered it to be an infringement of their individual rights.
Nick kyrgios has answers on both sides of the spectrum. Novak Djokovic's future in the tournament still continues to be shrouded in doubt. It seems likely that there will be no dearth of controversy leading up to the kickoff on 17 January.
#4 Stefanos Tsitsipas and his extended toilet breaks
Stefanos Tsitsipas invoked the ire of the tennis world this season thanks to his toilet breaks during matches, which many of his opponents feel are too long.
Even the otherwise jovial and soft-spoken Andy Murray burst out at the Greek after he took two lengthy breaks at the US Open in their first-round match. Murray felt that the move was designed to quell his momentum, while Alexander Zverev has even suggested that he receives coaching during the break.
Tsitsipas, however, has gone on to defend himself, saying that none of this was intentional and that he was acting well within the rules of the game.
“I took my toilet break as a normal athlete. [I] might have taken a bit longer than other athletes. But if there is a rule that says there’s a specific amount of time that you are allowed to take, then I would probably try and follow that,” Tsitsipas said after his US Open game against Carlos Alcaraz.
This issue created so much controversy that the ATP, in fact. has announced rules to combat players from abusing this system.
#3 Nick Kyrgios's temper tantrum over towels
One of the changes the pandemic has brought to tennis is that the ball kids are no longer allowed to hand over towels to the players. This safety measure means that the players themselves have to walk to the box where the towels are kept to use them.
After his first round defeat at the US Open at the hands of Robert Bautista Agut, a fuming Nick Kyrgios threw a temper tantrum because he had to walk "too many steps" to where the towels were kept. The Australian was of the opinion that he should be able to keep his towel wherever he wanted (closer to him).
"I feel like if I want my towel around the court, if it's not disturbing Bautista Agut's vision, if he doesn't see the towel, I don't see anything wrong with having my towel on the side or on the ground. And it's just absurd for me," Nick Kyrgios said after his loss.
Kyrgios received a violation during the match for taking too much time between shots, which prompted this reaction from the lively character.
#2 Abuse allegations against Alexander Zverev
Olga Sharypova took the tennis world by storm when she came forward with allegations of domestic abuse against Alexander Zverev. The first allegation came in 2020, but a second and longer article came out in August with more damning proof.
At the time of publication of the article, the ATP did not make any official statements, but in October it was announced that there would be an investigation into this matter.
"The allegations raised against Alexander Zverev are serious and we have a responsibility to address them. We hope our investigation will allow us to establish the facts and determine appropriate follow-up action," ATP CEO Masimmo Calvelli said.
Zverev, for his part, has welcomed the move by the ATP and continues to deny the allegations.
#1 WTA standing up for Peng Shuai
But nothing that happened this year can eclipse the Peng Shuai saga. Chinese player Peng Shuai came forward with allegations of sexual abuse against a prominent national politician on social media and went missing soon after.
She resurfaced after an all-engulfing social media outrage. The WTA, however, reiterated their demand for a free and fair investigation and felt that the Chinese authorities had failed in their task.
In a brave and unprecedented move, the organization announced the cancelation of all events in China and Hong Kong next year.
The move has been welcomed by players and fans all over the world, who praised the WTA for speaking truth to power and not compromising on their ethical stance.