Watching Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic over the last 20 years, you may have been under the false impression that the era of the mercurial tennis maniac was over. Those three, along with being the best to ever play the sport, are almost universally class acts, and the only "antics" you can think of in their long reign came in the handful of times that Djokovic seemed a little peeved at a vaguely hostile crowd, and gave a sardonic grin. McEnroe and Connors these guys were not, and it seemed that tennis had turned a new behavioral leaf.
But my friends, I have seen the new generation, and I am here report that the insanity is back.
It only took one week of U.S. Open action to prove, definitively, that the young and rising stars of the sport are a throwback to more volatile times, complete with anger, whining, entitlement, and general lunacy. The incidents of the last seven days alone have been shocking, hilarious, and even a little unprecedented. (Please note that all the videos below contain some bad language, so don't watch them while your boss is looking over your shoulder.)
Let's start with Nick Kyrgios, already famous for his sour attitude. In his second-round match, disliking a late challenge, he dropped an f-bomb ("I don't give a f$@!") and proceeded to berate the chair and his supervisor for two minutes.
In the next round, against Andrey Rublev, he carried on a monologue with himself for the entire match (classic sane behavior), complained that he couldn't see when it was clear he was seeing just fine, and even called a line judge a "whistleblower" after he reported something Kyrgios said to the chair (I think he called him a b**** too):
All of that was after insulting Tom Rinaldi and then having to face him before the match.
Somehow, that wasn't nearly the worst of the week...it wasn't even top three. Next up is Denis Shapovalov, who absolutely dominated fellow Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round, but couldn't stop himself from going apeshit on the verge of victory:
Next, and even worse, is Stefanos Tsitsipas, who reacted with total petulance in his second-round loss to Andrey Rublev, and managed to insult an entire European country:
"You're all weirdos!" he says, referring to the French people. It's wild to me that this hasn't become a bigger deal in the ensuing days—that's xenophobia, at the very best—and all I can say is that I can't wait for his first-round match at the French Open next year.
Finally, the king of all displays comes from the Russian Daniil Medvedev, who once coined the classic "Man you better SHUT your f*** up, okay?!" in a fight with Tsitsipas. Friday, playing Feliciano Lopez in the third round, he turned the crowd completely against him with this move:
Then he flipped off the entire crowd, which was later shown in slow-motion replay, leading to a cascade of boos:
It was after the match, though, that he really delivered the coup de grace, trolling the entire Arthur Ashe crowd in one of the best on-court interviews I've ever seen:
"I want all of you to know, when you sleep tonight...I won because of you!" Glorious.
These men...they are not right. And I can't wait to see where it goes from here.
Meanwhile, in Rafa World...
While the others were having meltdowns, what was Rafa doing? Saving a child from being crushed to death, because of course he was:
The Non-Temperamental Non-Insane Non-Lunatic Tennis Person of the Week: Naomi Osaka
Osaka, the defending U.S. Open champ, played 15-year-old Coco Gauff on Ashe Saturday night, and pretty much decimated her. It was a hard moment for the extremely young Gauff, in the brightest spotlight of her young career, and she was on the verge of tears as the outcome became clear and the match wound to a close. When it was over, Osaka had some kind words for her, and then insisted that they do the post-match interview together:
Osaka herself turned pro when she was 14 (she's only 21 now), and to remember how it felt to be in Gauff's shoes is a wonderful piece of empathy. "They don’t know that we go into the locker room and cry," she said, and that says it all—she wanted Gauff to have the chance to take a bow, speak to her fans, and frame the experience as a positive in the immediate aftermath of a tough loss.
See, dudes of tennis? "Volatile jerk" isn't the only option out there for you!
The "I Refuse to Read Past the Headline Because the Headline is Too Good" Story of the Week:
You read on for context if you want...I refuse. It's already perfect. And I hope they give him that trademark.
The "Gratitude Where It's Not Deserved" Gesture of the Week: Andrew Luck
I agree with the take that it was terrible for Colts fans to boo Andrew Luck in what has to be the worst curtain call ever, but I also agree that literally any other fan base would have done the exact same thing. NFL fans are terrible in general, and I think Eagles fans might have stoned him to death. Still, if I were Luck? I wouldn't feel obligated to say anything to the fans after sacrificing my body on a garbage team for years and getting that kind of send-off, and if I did say something, it wouldn't be something nice. But Luck is clearly a better person, because he took out a full-page ad in the Indy Star to thank them all in Sunday's paper:
"Thanks for making me feel terrible in my final NFL moment, gang!"
Gratuitous Liverpool Highlight of the Week: This Goal
Here was Liverpool going up 1-0 in a match they'd win against Burnley:
And I show you that partly because it was a cool, weird goal, but mostly because I want to set up Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool manager) for his priceless reaction when a reporter told him after the match that it was actually called an own-goal since it took a deflection off the defender's back:
Joy. Extinguished. I have a feeling that .gif is going to outlive us all.