MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Serena Williams was impressed. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was surprised. Novak Djokovic just couldn’t wait to join the hundreds of thousands of people to have viewed online footage of Marcos Baghdatis’ spectacular bout of racket rage.
Baghdatis went out of the Australian Open in a late-night match Wednesday, but he was still the talk of Melbourne Park a day later.
Down two sets and a break, Baghdatis sat in his chair at the changeover and whacked his racket on the court seven times until it was almost unrecognizable. That wasn’t so unusual — what happened next was.
Baghdatis calmly gave the mangled racket to a ballboy, plucked a new one out of his bag and cracked that as well. The next two, he didn’t even bother taking out of the plastic wrapping before smashing them into the court.
In all, the fiery Cypriot broke four rackets during a meltdown that lasted less than a minute and earned him a $1,250 fine — or just over $300 per racket.
“I’ve never done that. That’s impressive. Wow,” Williams said Thursday. “I actually used to break a lot of rackets on the court. I sometimes break them in practice, just not in a match anymore.”
His frustration released, Baghdatis recovered to win the third set but lost the match 7-6 (3), 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 to Stanislas Wawrinka.
Nearly 24 hours later, YouTube footage of the racket smashing episode had been viewed more than 350,000 times — and it was still rising.
“I hope he gets a share of the YouTube clips,” said former Aussie Open champion Jim Courier, who working as an analyst during the tournament for Australian television. “It was such a raw moment.”
Djokovic hadn’t yet had a chance to see the footage before his match, but the mention of racket smashing had him reminiscing about the game’s most famous exponents.
“I think (Goran) Ivanisevic and (Marat) Safin are right up there,” the No. 1-ranked Serb said. “Loved watching them.”
Baghdatis, who could have been fined up to $2000 for his outburst, joined a list of players who have also been penalized for breaking their rackets at the tournament, including John Isner, Alexandr Dolgopolov and Denis Istomin.
Donald Young, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Gilles Simon have been given $1,500 fines for audible obscenities.
Tsonga, like most players who were asked about it on Thursday, sympathized with Baghdatis’ need to vent his frustrations — but the Frenchman was still taken aback by the scale of the tantrum.
“Four, it’s a lot,” said Tsonga, a former Australian Open finalist. “My father told me all the time, ‘If you break the racket, I break you.’”
Baghdatis wasn’t alone in losing his cool on Wednesday.
After losing the fourth set of his marathon match against Isner, David Nalbandian threw his racket into a wall at Margaret Court Arena and was lucky it didn’t rebound and hit a nearby linesperson.
A ballboy picked up the racket and gave it back, only for the unhappy Argentine to fling it into the crowd.
That wasn’t the end of it, either. Nalbandian also angrily smashed his racket after netting a volley on match point and later verbally hit out at chair umpire Kader Nouni, who refused his request for a Hawk-eye challenge at break point at 8-8 in the fifth set because he had waited too long.
“I mean, can you be that stupid to do that in that moment?” Nalbandian said.
Nalbandian and Baghdatis still have some way to go before they can match former No. 1-ranked Safin for racket-smashing prowess. The 2005 Australian Open champion once estimated that he had destroyed about 700 in his 12-year career.
“Luckily I get them for free,” said Safin, who recently won a seat in Russia’s lower house of Parliament.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press