The Top Bad Boys of Tennis of the 1970s

AP/Bob Child, file

The Top Bad Boys of Tennis of the 1970s

The 1970s were a golden era for tennis, and some of the most iconic players of all time took to the court in this decade.

But it wasn’t just the skillful playing that made these players stand out—it was their personalities. From bad boy antics and wild behavior off the court to an unapologetic attitude on it, these players forged reputations as some of the toughest competitors in the game. Let’s take a look at some of these “bad boys” of tennis from the ’70s.

Jimmy Connors
Arguably one of the most famous “bad boys” of tennis, Jimmy Connors was known for being brash and cocky on the court and for his sometimes-volatile temper. He was also renowned for his athleticism and ability to win matches no matter what the odds. His tenacity saw him play well into his late 30s and culminated in an amazing US Open run to the semifinals in 1991. Connors played with such intensity that he’d routinely throw a crowd into a frenzy of support for him. During his career he won eight Grand Slam singles titles, two Grand Slam doubles titles and five Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.

John McEnroe
The baddest of the bad, McEnroe had a fiery temper filled with loud outbursts during matches earning numerous fines and even a default at the 1990 Australian Open. He would famously question line calls, and berate umpires. Super Brat was a nickname given to him because of all this. Off the court, he could be found partying it up with Borg and Gerulaitis. During his tenure as a professional tennis player, he won seven Grand Slam singles titles, nine Grand Slam men’s doubles titles, and one Grand Slam mixed doubles title.

Björn Borg
Although, not a bad boy on the court, Borg was very present in the pop and celebrity culture of the 1970s. He was adored by millions of fans and McEnroe still recounts stories of Borg and him dancing into the night at places like Studio 54. You’re definitely considered a bad boy if you party all night with A-listers. Over 11 years he won 11 Grand Slam singles titles—an impressive feat by any standard!

Vitas Gerulaitis
Vitas Gerulaitis will always be remembered as one of the greatest players ever to grace a tennis court; both for his excellent play and charisma off the court too. He had an enthusiasm for life, a sense of humor, and trademark phrases like “Nobody beats Vitas 17 times in a row, after snapping a 16-match losing streak to Connors” The players and the fans loved him and he gave as much back as he took. He was also an avid guitar player and graced numerous stages with rock stars from the 80s.

Ilie Nastase
Before McEnroe and Connors, Ilie Nastase was the original bad boy of tennis. His nickname was “Nasty” as he would argue with umpires and routinely make vulgar gestures at opponents and even fans! Despite his bad behavior, he left an indelible mark on the sport that will never be forgotten. With 64 singles titles and 45 doubles titles along with a number-one ranking over a 15-year span combined with numerous other accomplishments throughout his career, it’s clear why many consider him to be one of the greatest players ever!

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