As the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, most players dream of one day taking the grass court at Wimbledon. For American Jeff Tarango, his appearance in the third round of the 1995 Wimbledon tournament ended almost as soon as it began. After 109 years of tournament history, Tarango became the first player to ever walk off the court in the middle of a match.
First, some back-story. During the first round of doubles action, Great Britain’s Tim Henman accidentally struck a girl with a ball. Tarango then took it upon himself to argue with the umpire that Henman should be defaulted for the folly. His persuasion paid off, and Henman was defaulted, which raised the ire of the hometown fans. After that, they made it a point to heckle Tarango every change they got.
After arguing with the umpire over a call in his third round match against Germany’s Alexander Mronz, Tarango returned to the service line where he was immediately met with audible boos and whistles. Acknowledging the hecklers, Tarango turned their direction as yelled “Oh, shut up!” Umpire Bruno Rebeuh then penalized Tarango for using an obscenity, which he responded to by confronting Rebeuh and demanded that a supervisor review the action.
After being told by the supervisor to keep playing, Tarango continued his verbal tirade against Rebeuh, announcing, “You are the most corrupt official in the game. You can’t do that.” This led to yet another violation for Tarango, who then threw his tennis balls down, gathered his equipment, and left the court. Adding insult to injury, his ex-wife later slapped Rebeuh twice in the face. Tarango was subsequently banned from the 1996 Wimbledon tournament.
Check out a clip of the incident and post-match interview with Tarango here.