At the ATP Championship every player has his own locker room, a plush space with an easy chair and a glass coffee table. After Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia lost to Stich in last year's semis, he smashed his coffee table to pieces. He was not fined.
Trouble is, the players are above the authority of the officials. Even McEnroe was defaulted only once in his career, at the Australian Open in 1990. A chair umpire is undermined every time a player, objecting to a call, sends for the tournament referee, who often sides with the player.
Tennis is the only major sport that virtually never suspends athletes for egregious behavior. During a match against Petr Korda at the '90 U.S. Open, Agassi, enraged over a line call, cursed at chair umpire Wayne McKewen and then spit at him. The two men then argued over whether Agassi had spit intentionally, and Agassi sent for Grand Slam supervisor Ken Farrar. After a three-way discussion McKewen announced a point penalty against Agassi, which put him one infraction away from being defaulted. But Farrar, who had decided to give Agassi the benefit of the doubt, made McKewen rescind the penalty. The match continued, and Agassi won. After reviewing a tape of the incident the next day, Farrar concluded that the spitting had been deliberate and lined Agassi $3,000.
The next time a player smashes something, suspend him. If he acts up in a match, default him.
5) How about a smile?
Courier had just beaten Becker to win the U.S. Hardcourt title last August, and the crowd in Indianapolis continued to applaud him as commentator Bud Collins interviewed him before a television camera. When they went off the air, Collins gestured toward the stadium and asked Courier, "Would you like to say a few words to the crowd?"
"No," Courier said and strolled away.
When Sampras stares at his feet and Courier saunters off the court without acknowledging the fans, spectators have the uneasy feeling that they are in a vacuum rather than a stadium. Tennis. Sampras says. should be "strictly business," and Courier concurs. Yes, but it's the entertainment business. Otherwise, why are fans charged $25 at the gate?
"The one thing I've always known," says Agassi, "is that people had better walk out of that stadium feeling that there's no way they'd rather spend their money."
That doesn't mean players should try to entertain at the expense of their best tennis—something of which the showboating Agassi has been guilty. It also doesn't mean that they should try to be something they're not. So Sampras isn't David Letterman. What's wrong with that? "It is sickening that someone who is down-to-earth, polite, behaves well, is reasonably clever and wears nice clothes almost has to apologize for being the way he is," says one of Sampras's admirers, Ivan Lendl, who was considered even duller during his reign as No. 1.