Tennis’ most divisive and controversial figures following Novak Djokovic saga

In terms of controversial sagas, this hasn't been Novak Djokovic's first rodeo.

From accusations of faking injuries, to throwing rackets, to US Open disqualification for cracking a ball at a line-judge – the Serbian's stellar career has frequently been tainted by divisive incidents.

And that's without even getting started on his ill-fated Adria Tour.

What transpired in Australia earlier this month though, undoubtedly represents the Serb's most notorious episode. Vociferously supported by some, viciously opposed by others, his eventual deportation from Victoria proceeded the type of media frenzy that few tennis stars can ever claim to have instigated.

However, he's far from the the sport's only controversial figure. From the regular raging of John McEnroe to the homophobia of Margaret Court, tennis has showcased many individuals whose behaviour has been as integral to their reputations as their ability.

Here's six players who history will remember for considerably more than their return of serve.

Margaret Court

Had Djokovic been successful in his appeal against having his visa revoked, and then proceeded to land the Australian Open, a lingering cloud would have hovered over the sport.

A man who many argue should not have been permitted to even originally travel, would have not only evaded the Covid-19 mandate, but in the process become the most successful men's singles player in Grand Slam history.

And yet, the uneasiness would have been child's play compared to the vitriol that's long been aimed at the most successful competitor of them all.

Margaret Court has 24 Grand Slam singles titles. You'd expect that very statistic to see her revered, not just in Australia, but worldwide.

Far from it.

The Perth-based pastor sparked outrage in 2017 when she said tennis was "full of lesbians" and that transgender children were the work of "the devil."

Not content with that fallout, she vowed to avoid Australian airline Qantas in protest at its support of same-sex marriage.

Fellow legends Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King, who are both gay – have condemned her views but to little avail, and the decision last year to award her the Order of Australia's highest level prompted a backlash.

For years, protesters have demanded the Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne be renamed. Just like Court and her opinions, the venue's title has remained unmoved.

Jeff Tarango

If you followed tennis in the 1990s, you'll know the name Jeff Tarango.

Not because of his modest pro career, which saw him fail to venture beyond the third-round at a Grand Slam or better a world ranking of 42, but because of Wimbledon 1995.

Trailing by a set to Alexander Mronz, Tarango decided the blame for his erratic start lay with umpire Bruno Rebeuh, who he accused of being "one of the most corrupt officials in the game" after a code violation.

His rant prompted a second violation, and a few expletives and packed up rackets later, the American was storming off court.

Tarango's wife helpfully exacerbated matters by twice slapping the umpire, with her husband later fined more than £5,000 and banned from SW19 the following year.

Since retirement, he's occasionally cropped up during Wimbledon fortnight with an unusual television interview, and remains the strangest case of a 'one-hit wonder' going.

Jimmy Connors

Jimmy Connors never cared what others thought of him.

Probably just as well.

His aggressive on-court approach yielded eight Grand Slam titles, but lost him many adversaries in the process. Intimidating opponents was standard, expletives par for the course, and flicking fingers at umpires just one of his mannerisms when discontented.

He was no angel off-court either, attempting to sue the ATP and its President Arthur Ashe for $10 million for for allegedly restricting his freedom in the game.

The lawsuit followed the French Open banning Connors in 1974 after he had signed a lucrative contract to play World Team Tennis.

At Wimbledon in 1977, he refused to participate in a parade to celebrate the tournament's centenary, and in 2000 declined an invite to join a gathering of 58 former champions to mark the millennium.

And yet, his combative style was loved in some quarters. Connors was a maverick, unique, one of the first to bring bullish aggression and intimidation into a sport categorised as non-contact.

Hated, adored, never ignored, that was Jimmy Connors.

Jennifer Capriati

By the age of 13, Jennifer Capriati was on the cover of Sports Illustrated – and life came at her fast and furiously thereafter.

By 16, she was winning gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. By 18, she was in ruins, cited for shoplifting and arrested for marijuana possession before entering a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.

Incredibly, she would return to the sport to notch three Grand Slam titles and rise to world no 1 in 2001, and a once considered prestigious talent was finally threatening to fulfil her potential.

Not for long though. At the 2002 Federation Cup she was booted out of the American team following differences with non-playing captain Billie Jean King – and although a couple of US Open semi-finals followed, an underwhelming 2004 campaign would prove to be her last.

After tennis, personal demons returned, and in 2010 she was hospitalised following an overdose. Just three years later, she was charged with battery and stalking her former boyfriend – and community service and anger management counselling followed.

Views on the American have ranged far and wide. Many lament her for her questionable character, others sympathise, firing the blame towards her father Stefano for pushing her intensely from a young age.

Capriati was a remarkable talent. Sadly, it wasn't that notion that defined her career.

Ilie Nastase

If Jimmy Connors sought to intimidate opponents, then Illie Nastase took a slightly varied approach. He just simply mocked them, and invited pandemonium whilst doing so.

Alleged stories of a rival leaping over the net to threaten him, encouraging a crowd riot in a US Open match with John McEnroe, and a Davis Cup ban for persistent abuse of officials and opponents – all fitted in with the highly controversial, and undeniably gifted, Romanian star.

Nastase was his own man. In 1973, he was one of just two ATP members who defied the union's boycott of Wimbledon. In October 1977 he dubiously used a 'double-strung' racket to end Guilmero Vila's 46-match winning streak.

The result stood, but the use of such a racket was promptly banned.

Nastase's total of five Grand Slam finals – two of which proved successful – perhaps brought more scrutiny on his behaviour. But post-career, whilst he maintained his appeal with crowd-pleasing showings in exhibition matches, his tendency to create unsavoury headlines also remained.

Crass comments about Serena Williams' unborn baby, a lewd remark to Anna Keothavong, and an ITF suspension have all plagued his reputation in recent years.

At 75, it's perhaps time that the showman learnt went to stop.

John McEnroe

What better way to finish than with the most famous temper in tennis.

"You cannot be serious" was a phrase immortalised by American John McEnroe, even if that wasn't entirely his intention.

Volatile arguments with umpires, coupled with emotional outbursts aimed at himself, McEnroe's brilliance was always accompanied by theatre, and the odd perception of a demonic madman who happened to be an all-time great with it.

He was regularly in trouble with authorities, but regularly lifted trophies too, landing seven Grand Slam singles titles – and nine more in the doubles format.

There were pundits and fans who found his behaviour tedious, and he was dubbed 'Super brat' in some quarters of the British press.

Super brat, super player – the two came as a package with McEnroe. Now a pundit, he's predictably colourful in a commentary box too.

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