With the authorities trying to clamp down on match-fixing, tennis players are forbidden to bet on their sport, facing lengthy bans if they are caught breaking the rules. Yet with their days long and a tennis player’s life including a lot of waiting around, a spot of gambling, in some form, can be difficult to resist. Creativity becomes essential and players will often have a gentleman’s bet with each other, with the loser facing a sometimes embarrassing forfeit. Here are some of the most curious pledges, vows and bets we have seen in recent times.
Fabio Fognini’s talent is indisputable and yet Fabio hasn’t reached his major goal: to win a tournament. The Italian recently agreed with his coach Josè Perlas that he will not shave his beard unless he wins an ATP singles or doubles event. Witty remarks on Twitter suggested that he may stumble on it soon if he doesn’t speed it up.
In 2005, James Blake came back after long-term injury and illness and had a bet with his coach Brian Barker that if he managed to win a tournament, Barker would have to wear a gold tooth throughout the whole of the next grand slam event. The shining pirate implant, complete with skull and crossbones, is still remembered in Melbourne.
Brad Gilbert has to be one of the most imaginative coaches in the tennis world, especially when it comes to bets and forfeits. In 2006 he agreed with his then charge Andy Murray to do “the Peter Crouch robot dance and wear a Peter Crouch jersey” if the Scot won a grand slam tournament. He’s come close but it hasn’t happened yet.
Another famous dance is due to a bet between a player and a coach. Petar Popovic had to motivate Andrea Petkovic after some terrible summer results so when the German faced Nadia Petrova at the US Open, he told her that if she won she had to do something special. Petkovic’s creativity and a bit of superstition created the now famous choreography after the Russian was beaten.
In 2004, Tommy Robredo arranged with his coach Mariano Marchesi that if he reached the semi-finals in Cincinnati, the latter had to ride Drop Zone, a terrifying 26-story free-fall ride at the nearby theme park. Tommy kept his side of the promise and Marchesi had to play the fall guy.
Gilbert’s motivational skills go way back. Ask Andre Agassi. The Kid gambled with Brad that if he won the US Open Gilbert would get a full body shave. The pay-out occurred the Tuesday after the tournament when Brad had to shave his chest live on TV.
Shaving is a major pledging topic. When Kim Clijsters won the 2009 US Open, her coach Wim Fissette lost his bet and had to shave his head. The special hairdresser for the event? Kim herself. Fissette got his revenge in 2011 when Kim won the Australian Open but apparently Clijsters got away without doing the deed.
Tomas Berdych should have followed Kim’s example when he bet his coach Tomas Krupa that if he qualified for and played in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, won at least one title and 50 matches in 2011, he would lose his hair. Never bet your own “fur”.
There is a precedent in tennis where a bet was made, involving money, and nobody had to pay the consequences. In 2010 Andy Roddick wagered Justin Gimelstob $10,000 that he would not be able to complete the New York City marathon. Gimelstob, who had never run further than three miles before, got in perfect shape and completed the task in 4 hours and 9 minutes. Andy’s money went to Justin’s charity fund.
Roddick is not new to bets and pranks. In 2011, he won a bowling bet with his fiancée Brooklyn Decker and so she had to wear a very big yellow sunshine headband at a public dinner. “I had scuba gear and a sunshine headband. The worst part is the boys applauded everywhere we went so that people would turn and stare,” Brooklyn Tweeted the next day.
Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy are currently engaged in a bet to see who can stay away from their favourite, unhealthy foods for the longest. Caro will avoid sweets while Rory will give up salty snacks.
In 2012 Darren Cahill bet with Judy Murray that he would wear a kilt during the whole Australian Open final if Andy managed to reach it. He went awfully close but it’s something that we will have to wait a while longer to see.
Follow Enrico on Twitter: @enricomariariva
Thanks to Sara Cecamore for the help with the research