Can You Throw Your Racket In Tennis? [Inc. Racket Abuse Rules]

By Lin
Last update:
tennis rackets on ground

Understanding the basics of playing tennis can be challenging. For instance, can you throw your racket at the ball in tennis, or is dropping your racket during a point permitted? Does the racket always need to be in your hand during a match?

While playing tennis, athletes must hold onto their racket at all times: therefore, you cannot throw your racket at a ball or drop it during a point. If you cannot control your racket at any time during a shot or return, you will lose that point. Players can be penalized for doing this, as it’s a safety concern and is against official tennis guidelines.

Are you curious as to why tennis players sometimes throw their rackets? Keep reading to learn everything about this move!

Table of Contents

Can Tennis Players Throw Their Rackets To Hit The Ball?

Although we’ve seen players do this, you cannot release a racket from your grip during a match/event. According to official guidelines, all tennis players must always have control over their racket during a match. If they drop or throw their racket during an event, this can count as racket abuse, and they can be penalized.

Moreover, the player loses the point if the ball touches a dropped or thrown racket. Racket abuse is not allowed in tennis, amateur or professional, and is considered a serious offense. Do not let go of your equipment even if you can’t get to the ball in time.

If you’re having trouble hanging onto your racket, our article on regripping one might be helpful.

Why Do Tennis Players Throw Their Rackets?

Tennis players often throw their rackets out of pure frustration after a bad move or lost point. There have been many instances where players have smashed their rackets into the court, which is considered against the game’s rules.

Another reason players do this is to hit a ball they can’t reach. Sometimes, tennis players will throw their racket to save a ball and return it to the other side of the net. Either way: it’s not allowed.

The Official Rules On Racket Throwing In Tennis

According to official tennis guidelines, no player can let go of their racket anytime. Dropping or throwing your racket can result in a loss of points, as well as hitting the ball with a dropped or thrown racket not being in control.

On top of being unsportsmanlike, damaging or intentionally releasing your racket is dangerous. According to the ATP Handbook, any person who commits racket abuse can be fined $500 per occurrence. For WTA players, this fine can be as steep as $2,500.

Many don’t believe this difference in fines is fair, but regardless, no tennis player should be getting violent on the court: ever.

Is Racket Abuse Different Than Dropping Your Tennis Racket?

Yes, breaking a racket or intentionally dropping or throwing it is much different than accidentally losing your grip. Generally, the official tennis rulebook doesn’t penalize those who do this by mistake, while racket abuse falls into another, more severe category.

As we said above, you are fined for destroying your racket during a tennis event. In contrast, you won’t be fined for dropping a racket: but you could lose the point. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it certainly can create confusion on and off the court.

The History Of Racket Abuse Rules In Tennis

Since the beginning of the sport, violence on the tennis court has resulted in bans, fines, and trouble with the official ATP. However, many players have broken these guidelines by mistake and intentionally through the years without getting into too much trouble.

Notably, according to the New York Times, these are the number of recorded fines for racket abuse between 1998 and 2018:

Men: 646 fines

Women: 99 fines

There have been many infamous racket abuse cases in tennis, from pro players Marcos Baghdatis at the Australian Open, Fernando Gonzalez at Indian Wells, to Novak Djokovic at the Shanghai Masters. Due to this behavior, the ATP has issued countless fines, updated rules, and even threatened to ban players for extended periods.

What Are Other Racket Abuse Rules In Tennis?

Regarding the other racket abuse rules in tennis, here’s what the official guidelines layout for players:

Section 18: Players shall not engage in unsportsmanlike conduct. During the course of a match, a player shall not engage in:

c. Racket abuse. Throw or break a racket other than in the normal course of play.”

This applies to both ATP and WTA players.

It’s also worth noting that other on-court abuse can come in the form of kicking bottles, throwing equipment, yelling at officials, and causing any disorderly conduct before, during, or after an event. A disqualification will result from inappropriate remarks made to the umpire or a ball/racket propelled in anger striking someone.

Any time someone is harming their tennis equipment on and off the court, this can be counted as abuse of equipment.

Which Famous Tennis Players Have Committed Racket Abuse?

Many professional tennis players let their emotions get the best of them on the court. Some of the most notorious racket smashes ever include:

  • Marcos Baghdatis at the 2012 Australian Open
  • Fernando Gonzalez at the 2009 Indian Wells Masters
  • Kristos Vliegen at the 2009 Monte Carlo Rolex Masters
  • Grigor Dimitrov at the 2016 Istanbul Open
  • Novak Djokovic at the 2012 Shanghai Masters
  • Roger Federer at the 2009 Miami Open
  • Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Australian Open
  • Nick Kyrgios at the 2019 Cincinnati Open
  • Stan Wawrinka at the 2013 US Open
  • Coco Vandeweghe at the 2017 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic at Australian Open in 2021

One of the more recent outbursts came from Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Australian Open. He was heavily criticized for this move and received a warning from the umpire.

Coco Vandeweghe at Australian Open in 2017

Female tennis player, Coco Vandeweghe, was another example of this at the 2017 Australian Open, when she threw her racket across the court before picking it up and slamming it down a second time, breaking the frame. Even though she had won that set, she lost the trophy: despite being ranked six places higher than Mladenovic by the WTA.

Famous Points Won By Throwing Rackets In Tennis

Over the years, there have been a few times where points were won because a player threw their tennis racket.

Bryan Brothers at Wimbledon in 2013

The Bryan Brothers did this at Wimbledon in 2013, leading to plenty of controversy. Moreover, the umpire let Mike keep the point he scored with this maneuver.

Jimmy Connors on Senior Tour in 1996

Another great point won via a thrown racket was made by Jimmy Connors in 1996 on the Senior Tour. He was also granted the scored point, which would have usually been taken away because he let go of his racket.

These are rare and have not happened in many years. The ATP and WTA have recently cracked down on racket-related abuses, which could explain why players don’t try and attempt this. There’s also an incredibly slim chance a thrown racket can score a point during your match, so it’s not generally worth attempting.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we covered the basics of racket abuse and the rules of keeping your racket in your hand for the duration of a tennis match. Do not throw your racket even if you can’t reach the ball or get frustrated. You could lose the point, face fines, and even be disqualified.

Photo of author


Editor of All Points Tennis and a huge Roger Federer fan, I've spent countless hours studying his moves, especially his forehand and one-handed backhand. I also love writing about all the technical stuff like rackets and strings. I'm super pumped to share my insights with fellow tennis lovers here.