From Serena Williams’ Foot-Fault, Novak Djokovic’s Default, to Nick Kyrgios’ Collar, Here are the Top Controversies at US Open

Published 08/24/2021, 2:00 PM EDT
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 08: Serena Williams of the United States argues with umpire Carlos Ramos during her Women’s Singles finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

The US Open is the fourth and last annual Grand Slam tournament on the tennis tour. While it brings one of the world’s best hard-court tennis every year, it has also had its fair share of controversial moments. From Serena Williams to Novak Djokovic, let’s look at significant controversies in the US Open history.


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Serena Williams’ controversies at the US Open

Six-time US Open champion Serena Williams has had more than a few disputes in Flushing Meadows. Firstly, she had made the headlines with her catsuit outfit in 2002.


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Although deemed as impractical sportswear, the American won the women’s singles title donning it. Moreover, she also had sent the outfit for pre-approval to the tournament. Even then, it remains one of the controversial outfits in Tennis till date.

Most famously, Serena had once lost a semifinals match over a foot fault in 2009. While it sounds ordinary, the incident stirred up to become one of the most controversial moments of the sport.

At 5-6, Serena served to impose a tiebreaker in the second set to stay in the tournament. However, a lines judge called a foot fault on her second serve, giving Kim Clijsters multiple match points.

Later on, the American engaged in a verbal rant with the lines umpire, which got her a point penalty, giving her opponent the win. Afterwards, Serena did issue an apology to the lines judge.

Recently, in the 2018 final against Naomi Osaka, the 23-time Grand Slam champion called the chair umpire Carlos Ramos a ‘thief‘ and a ‘liar.’ Before this, she had received two code violations – racquet abuse and on-court coaching.

Serena got a game penalty which helped Osaka obtain her maiden Grand Slam comfortably. There was a larger impact of the incident, however, as it the altercation with the umpire sparked inequality conversations in the sport.

Naomi Osaka of Japan cries after winning the Women’s Singles finals match alongside runner up Serena Williams of the United States on Day Thirteen of the 2018 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 8, 2018 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Controversial Novak Djokovic at the US Open

Unsurprisingly, the Serbian ace Novak Djokovic has found himself in many controversies throughout his career. However, one of the rarest incidents transpired between him and Andy Roddick (now retired) in 2008.

In the quarterfinals, Djokovic faced the 2003 US Open winner. Interestingly, he won the tight battle 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5). However, things took a turn for the worse in the locker room when Roddick got annoyed with Djokovic ‘chirping’ after victory. Subsequently, the Serb apologised for his words.

Watch this story: A Look Inside Novak Djokovic’s $10 Million Mansion in Spain

After a decade and more, the darkest day arrived for the Serbian in his professional career. At the 2020 US Open, Djokovic accidentally hit a linesperson and got defaulted from the tournament.

Though he apologised, the decision stayed until the end. Indeed, it is one of the days Djokovic would want to rub off his career.

Nick Kyrgios and Maria Sharapova’s headline moments in New York

In the list of controversial figures in Tennis, Nick Kyrgios would rank close to the top. Chiefly, in 2019, he went on to ask for the rulebook twice during his second-round match against Antoine Hoang. He even threatened to walk off but later completed the contest.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 12: Nick Kyrgios of Australia celebrates after winning a point in his Men’s Singles third round match against Dominic Thiem of Austria during day five of the 2021 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on February 12, 2021 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

First, he inquired about the rulebook when asked to pull his collars down. Apparently, it wrote the ‘Just Do You,’ which the tournament considered against the rules.

Afterwards, Kyrgios got furious when the chair umpire called ‘game’ but later allowed a challenge from his opponent. Again, he went to the supervisor asking for the rule.

“I’d won the game. (The chair umpire) He called game, then my opponent challenged. I thought that wasn’t right,” Kyrgios said. “(The collar) I think it was a misunderstanding. I think they thought it was a slogan, but it wasn’t. I knew the supervisor was wrong, but I just folded my collar down.”

Among the many notable names, the now-retired Maria Sharapova also finds features in this list. Remarkably, the controversy happened in 2006, the year she won her only US Open title.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 21: Maria Sharapova of Russia looks frustrated in her first round match against Donna Vekic of Croatia on day two of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 21, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

Seemingly, many doubted her earnestness in the title winning run, claiming her father-coach gave her signals during the match. Although her father did hold bananas twice, Sharapova confirmed that he was only trying to remind her to eat. In the end, it remains a bizarre controversy of the sport.


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Other notable controversies at US Open

  • Fabio Fognini was fined $24,000 and defaulted from the 2017 US Open after using ill language towards a female umpire.
  • Alize Cornet received a point penalty for changing her t-shirt on the court at the 2018 US Open. Later, the tournament apologised, stating the rules remain the same for men and women.
  • In 1979, Ilie Nastase pretended to sleep at the receiving end, citing John McEnroe’s lengthy intervals between sets. He received a code violation, then got defaulted, and was brought back on the court after a while. He and McEnroe ended up having dinner together that night.


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These are some of the notable incidents that transpired at the Flushing Meadows. Alongside the brilliant Tennis on display, a little bit of controversy in the tournament ensures a captivating US Open.



Purav Joshi

1118 articles

Purav Joshi is a Tennis author at EssentiallySports. Having a degree in Films, Television and Media Production, he guided his passion for writing and journalism into the sport of aces and rallies. With over 2 years of experience as a copywriter, Purav has authored over 500 tennis articles.