Justine Henin exclusively about Alexander Zverev’s freaks: The subtle difference to John McEnroe

John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were notorious for their outbursts of anger on the pitch. The weddings between the two tennis icons took place about 40 years ago, but today parallels are often drawn when the current stars of the scene behave badly.

Justine Henin finds the comparison only partially appropriate. “Of course,” McEnroe and Connors would have exceeded their limits, “but they stayed in their fight, they were insightful,” said the Belgian, who ended his career in 2011.

In addition, she completely disagrees that Alexander Zverev’s, Nick Kyrgios’ mistakes, Daniil Medvedev or Jenson Brooksby’s give tennis authenticity.

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“I would prefer the professionals to excel in their playing style, communicate with the audience, share things, be creative,” Henin told Eurosport.

Recorded from the TV show Eurosport Tennis Club

In general, tennis professionals allow themselves too much on the court?

Justine Henin: Yes, they go too far. We experience scenes that are unacceptable. Players leaving the pitch for no apparent reason, such as Alexander Bublik. This was also recently seen with Victoria Azarenka. One must not forget: There are people who have bought tickets, TV stations that charge fees. In addition, there are sponsors who spend a lot of money to be able to pay these players. I do not find that acceptable.

The phenomenon is not entirely new.

Henine: One often hears that there were gaffs already then. Nevertheless, I believe that we are currently experiencing an escalation that is unacceptable. One can enjoy the tennis game Kyrgios, the moments when he plays wonderfully. I admire that, but on the other hand, he allows himself to have interruptions that are unacceptable. Let’s think of Alexander Zverev or Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open – where should the line be drawn? Jenson Brooksby did not even go to the ball boy to apologize in Miami (after throwing a bat in his direction, RU). Kyrgios also explodes after his loss to Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells and almost hits a ball boy with his racket. Arguing that he did not meet him, he is not even punished! I really think it’s time to stop breaking rackets – because these are pictures you do not want to see on TV.

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What role does the increased TV presence play?

Henine: It is true that everything is becoming more and more commented on and more present through TV recordings. But that can not be an excuse to allow such a behavior because there are young players watching it. Top athletes must remain role models, even if they are only human.

ATP has responded and announced tougher penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Henine: Rightly, measures had to be taken. I hope that will happen and that it will specifically ensure that certain behaviors on the pitch stop. You can not just shout at a judge. Even when there is no intention, it is a problem to smash a racket, which may even end up flying towards the ball, boys and girls. Fortunately, the intention is not to hurt anyone – and that is, so to speak, the players’ line of defense. Only: If you look at the pictures of Zverev in Acapulco again, it was intimidating, explosive behavior. No one wants to see it and should have been punished much harder. Zverev should not be on the pitch at the moment.

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At the same time, there is always a requirement that tennis needs people with rough edges and that it should not become too “germ-free”.

Henine: What bothers me about this debate is that it boils down to the question, “Do we have ‘germ-free’ tennis?” I would prefer that the professionals were influenced by their playing style, that they communicate with the audience, that they share things, that they are creative. In my opinion, if the plan to make tennis attractive is to be vulgar and violent, then the limits have been exceeded. Again, I truly believe that tennis can be incredibly amazing through the game itself, creativity and many other amazing things.

Which can not hide the fact that some stars from previous years have behaved incorrectly.

Henine: Of course it was like that with McEnroe or Connors, but they stayed in their fight, were insightful. At Brooksby, however, there was not even an apology that nothing will happen. There is also an education problem. With these physical reactions, it becomes apparent that some are unable to control their frustration. Nevertheless, it is and will be important to learn exactly this. It is on television that the professionals have a responsibility.

Thank you for the interview, Mrs Henin.

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