Religious Fanatic Disrupts Men’s Pro Tennis Event

A religious fanatic disrupted play at a men’s professional tennis tournament October 20, walking on to the feature court and in front of a sell-out audience and preached about the evils of credit cards and of Satan before being escorted into the custody by local officials. This was the scene on October 20, 1985 during the final round match between Ivan Lendl and Henri Leconte at the Australian Indoor Championships in Sydney. The excerpt of this event, and others from this day, from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, can be found below…

1985 – A religious fanatic walks on the court, serves drinks to Ivan Lendl and Henri Leconte and preaches a sermon in the middle of the final round match of the Australian Indoor Championships in Sydney. In the ninth game of the third set, the man, wearing a caterer’s uniform, walks onto the court with a tray with two glasses of orange juice and religious pamphlets that he presents to both Lendl and Leconte. Reports the Associated Press of the incident, “To the astonishment of the players, officials and crowd, he put the tray down in the center of the court and proclaimed loudly, ‘I would like to bring these gentlemen two drinks.’ He then began babbling about the evil of credit cards and the devil before being escorted away by embarrassed officials. The tournament was sponsored by a credit finance company.” Says Lendl of the incident, “I was really, really mad at that. Not for the security reason, but because they were too gentle with him. They should have been rougher with him.” Lendl wins the match from Leconte by a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 margin.

2006 – Czech Tomas Berdych illicts jeers from an angry Spanish crowd after putting his finger to his lips in a silencing motion after defeating Spanish favorite son Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-6 (6) in the quarterfinals of the Madrid Masters. Nadal calls Berdych a “bad person” because of the gesture. Berdych responds that is done in response to the Spanish crowd cheering his mistakes. “I can understand they want him to win the match and the tournament, but this is not a Davis Cup where you can expect this — not in this tournament,” Berdych says. Counters Nadal, “When I played him in the Czech Republic, the crowd was the same and I didn’t say anything. If you play against a local player, that’s normal. That’s good for tennis because the public supports you.”

1974 – Evonne Goolagong defeats Chris Evert 6-3, 6-4 to win the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles and the first prize paycheck of $32,000, at the time, the largest payout ever in women’s tennis.

2003 – Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium officially becomes No. 1 in the world for the first time in her career. Henin-Hardenne holds the ranking for a total of 117 weeks during her career. Her last week in the No. 1 ranking comes on June 2, 2008, when she announces her shocking retirement from the sport and has the WTA Tour immediately pull her name off of the rankings.

1991 – Sixteen-year-old Anke Huber of Germany upsets nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) to win the Porsche Grand Prix Championships in Filderstadt, Germany. Says Huber “I have been dream about this victory, but I never thought it would happen. I still can’t believe it.” The win for Huber spoils Navratilova’s bid to equal Chris Evert’s record of 157 tournament victories (which she does on Nov. 4, winning the Virginia Slims of Oakland). Despite being too young to drive a car in Germany, Huber chooses a Porsche car in lieu of $70,000 first prize paycheck.

1991 – Pete Sampras needs less than one hour to defeat Olivier Delaitre of France 6-1, 6-1 to win the Grand Prix singles title in Lyon, France.