If you have paid to watch a tennis match you will hope, at the very least, to see both players trying to win. If one of them appears to be making no effort you will feel that you have wasted your money, and this feeling will be further amplified if you have bet on the losing player.
For these reasons, professional tennis players are required to give their best effort at all times, and face punishment if they incur a tennis best effort violation.
What Is Best Effort Violation?
The ATP Code of Conduct and WTA Rulebook define a best effort violation in almost identical ways. They each require a player to use their best efforts during a match, and give the Supervisor and Chair Umpire the authority to penalise the player according to the standard ‘Point Penalty’ procedure.
Both governing bodies also allow for the most serious violations (defined using dramatic terminology like ‘flagrant’ and ‘egregious’) to be punished as the more serious offence of ‘Aggravated Behaviour’.
Penalties And Fines
If the Umpire or Supervisor believes that a player is not trying, they will begin to apply penalties according to the usual code violation scale, beginning with a warning for the first offence and increasing to loss of point, loss of game, and finally default.
This may not be thought to be much of a threat, as it simply speeds up the inevitable, but it officially records the Umpire’s disapproval, and may trigger a fine later. This fine may be up to $10,000 on the WTA Tour, or $20,000 on the ATP Tour.
For a major breach of the code of conduct (it is not stated what would constitute something more serious, but they definitely feel that the words flagrant and egregious would need to be merited!), both Tours could categorise the offence as ‘aggravated behaviour’.
The WTA, for example, can apply a fine of up to $25,000 (or the amount of prize money won at the relevant tournament if greater) for this, along with a suspension of between 3 weeks and one year.
Examples Of Best Effort Violation
There have been many examples over the years of players appearing not to try. A distinction should be made here between players who may not be fully fit giving away a set in which they have fallen significantly behind, in order to conserve energy and give themselves a better chance of winning the next one, and players who simply do not seem interested in winning.
Whilst players have been penalised for the former, it is the latter behaviour that the governing bodies are most keen to stamp out.
The YouTube video for which I have provided a link below includes some of the most infamous examples of lack of effort on the ATP Tour in recent times.
Two Australians, Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, feature prominently. The first section of the video shows Kyrgios taking on Mischa Zverev at the 2016 Shanghai Masters, a match in which it quickly became apparent that Kyrgios did not want to be there– the result was a $10,000 fine, which was then the maximum.
Tomic is a difficult player to assess, because he looks languid even when playing well, but in the cases on the video he was clearly not mentally engaged.
Benoit Paire is another good player who appears, throwing away a set against Filippo Volandri. Paire is a very moody player, but in this case he was a set up, so it is likely he was saving himself for the final set, and we have no way of judging his state of physical health on that day.
Some of the examples are mildly amusing, but of course they do call into question the mental state of the players. They are young people who spend most of the year away from home and go on court to perform and be judged even when feeling anxious, unhappy or depressed.
The tours need to be seen to punish lack of effort, but it is important to offer psychological help too.
Best Effort Violation Summary
In case you missed any of the important details, here’s a quick recap of Best Effort Violation in tennis;
- A tennis best effort violation is viewed by some as a badge of shame, but it can equally well be a cry for help.
- The code of conduct requires a player to give their best effort at all times.
- If the Umpire thinks a professional player is not trying they will be penalised via the Point Penalty Scale, and possibly fined later.
- Sometimes it makes sense for a player to let a set go if they are struggling physically, in order to regroup for the decider.
Have you ever encountered a player who was not trying in an important match? Tell us about your experience via the comments.
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