25 Sep 2016Last updated


The 10 most colourful characters in tennis

The rebels and misfits who have made a right racket on and off the court

By Craig Hawes
Added 10:16 | 2 July 2013
  • Top row (from left): Andre Agassi, Ilie Nastase and Anna Kournikova. Bottom row (from left): Jennifer Capriati, Pat Cash and Boris Becker.


Andre Agassi
Agassi was the first tennis player to look like a rock star – albeit a rock star from the decade before the one he was actually living in. The peroxide mullet, earrings and George Michaelesque stubble made him as great to watch as his majestic baseline forearm.

John McEnroe
Give McEnroe a mirror and he’d start an argument with himself. He was a nightmare to umpires, ball-boys, opponents and spectators alike. Rumours that he wore that headband to stop his brain exploding with rage are unfounded.

Ilie Nastase
He may have been nicknamed the ‘Bucharest Buffoon’ but such silly media-friendly monikers were no reflection on the charismatic Romanian’s formidable talent. Volatile, yes, but Nastase was mesmerising to watch.

The Williams sisters
Serena and Venus Williams have come up through the tennis rankings the hard way, coached by their self-taught father, Richard, on the courts of Compton LA to the sounds of gunshots. Both are already assured of their place in the pantheon of tennis greats.

Andy Murray
World class Scottish tennis players are as rare as igloos in the Sahara, so Andy Murray’s mere existence is as peculiar as tennis gets. Murray – a lanky stick of Tartan dynamite on court, with furious fist-pumping and the overripe language of a drunken sailor -- is sporting aggression personified.

Boris Becker
Boris Becker sensationally became Wimbledon champion in 1985 at the age of 17 and along with Stefan Edberg went on to dominate tennis for a decade. But he’s also known for fathering a child after a brief encounter in the broom cupboard of a London restaurant. Who said Germans were boring?

Bjorn Borg
If footballer George Best was “the fifth Beatle” then Borg was ABBA’s spare man, a long-haired Swede who was for many years John McEnroe’s on-court nemesis. Extremely superstitious, he never shaved his beard while playing at Wimbledon and went on to form a company that makes designer pants, outsold only by Calvin Klein in his homeland.

Anna Kournikova
We’re not exactly sure what the leggy Russian player ever actually won in her short career, but she had no shortage of male admirers, among them Enrique Iglesias with whom she has been romantically attached since 2001. Kournikova was once ranked No. 1 in the ESPN Classic series "Who's number 1?" when the series featured sport's most overrated athletes. Not her greatest moment.

Jennifer Capriati
Capriati was a highly precocious teen tennis star, breaking into the world top ten when she was fourteen years old. After hitting her peak between 2001 and 2004, her career and personal life floundered and she found herself in the news for all the wrong reasons, including drug abuse and theft. Plagued with injuries, Capriati’s time was tragically brief but brilliant.

Pat Cash
Cash delighted the Wimbledon crowd in 1987 when, after defeating Ivan Lendl in the final, he ran into the stands and up to the player's box at Centre Court where he celebrated with his family. He’s also a wannabe rock-star. He took to the stage with INXS at his Australian Tennis Hall of Fame induction at the 2003 Australian Open and occasionally plays with his own band.

By Craig Hawes

By Craig Hawes