Most Hated US Open Champions of All Time
Things can get pretty wild at the US Open. From massive brawls between fans to someone getting shot in the stands in 1977 to an official being arrested for her husband's murder in 2012, you absolutely cannot take for granted the twists and turns that might happen when America hosts its annual Grand Slam tennis extravaganza.
The play on the court isn't too bad, either. Every year, matches play out that create heroes and villains alike. Sometimes, one player can even become the hero for one group and the villain for another — it just depends on what side of the net you're rooting for.
Here's a look at the most hated US Open champions of all time.
10. Ilie Nastase
Born: July 19, 1946 (Bucharest, Romania)
Grand Slam titles (2): US Open (1972), French Open (1972)
Bottom Line: Ilie Nastase
Sometimes, there's a fine line between being hated … and being hilarious. Tennis legend Ilie Nastase toed that line during a second-round match against John McEnroe at the 1979 US Open. Nastase's antics were a riot in the comedy sense but also almost started an actual, physical riot.
Nastase was so frustrated with what he perceived as McEnroe stalling between points that he began pretending to sleep on the baseline, using his tennis racket as a pillow. Nastase was defaulted from the match, and the crowd started to turn angry, raining debris on the court until the NYPD accompanied a US Open official to the court to reinstate Nastase and remove the chair umpire. McEnroe went on to win in four sets.
9. Pancho Gonzales
Born: May 9, 1928 (Los Angeles, California)
Died: July 3, 1995, 67 years old (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Grand Slam titles (2): US Open (1948, 1949)
Bottom Line: Pancho Gonzales
Someone really needs to make a movie about legendary tennis player Pancho Gonzales, who won back-to-back US Open championships in 1948 and 1949.
Gonzales played professionally across four decades — he won his US Open titles when it was still amateur-only — and was the No. 1 player in the world from 1952 to 1961. He dealt with almost constant racism and belittlement throughout his life and career and developed into a hard, cynical man. And an unlikeable one at that.
Gonzales had some of the most lucrative, long-term endorsement deals and sweetheart jobs during his career and post-career but lost them all over his refusal to just … get along. Sadly, he died alone and in poverty in 1995 at 67 years old.
8. Marat Safin
Born: Jan. 27 ,1980 (Moscow, Soviet Union)
Grand Slam titles (2): US Open (2000), Australian Open (2005)
Bottom Line: Marat Safin
Marat Safin was good enough to win two Grand Slam singles titles, including the 2000 US Open. He also spent his career dealing with major anger issues that, by his own admission, resulted in him smashing over 1,000 racquets.
Safin was also considered one of the more unmotivated champions in recent memory. It's hard to win many fans when you're angry and lazy — that he beat US Open fan-favorite Pete Sampras in the 2000 finals is something fans at Flushing Meadows have found hard to forgive.
7. Andy Roddick
Born: Aug. 30, 1982 (Omaha, Nebraska)
Grand Slam titles (1): US Open (2003)
Bottom Line: Andy Roddick
It's been over a decade since Andy Roddick retired from singles tennis and 20 years since he won his only US Open championship — which is also the last time an American man won a Grand Slam singles title.
While Roddick's greatest moment in his career came at the US Open, arguably his lowest moment did as well when he attacked Novak Djokovic in the locker room following a loss in 2008. Roddick's career was more often than not defined by him losing his temper instead of his one-in-a-million talent.
6. Naomi Osaka
Born: Oct. 16, 1997 (Chuo-ku, Osaka, Japan)
Grand Slam titles (4): US Open (2018, 2020), Australian Open (2019, 2021)
Bottom Line: Naomi Osaka
From 2018 to 2021, Naomi Osaka won at least one Grand Slam singles title per year and became one of the highest-paid female athletes of all time in the process.
However, things since 2021 have been a bit bumpy. Beginning midway through 2021, Osaka retired from the French Open, completely dropped out of Wimbledon and lost early in the US Open. It was at the US Open where Osaka's problems seemed to finally come to a head, where she came completely unglued, throwing her racket several times during a loss to Leylah Fernandez before finally firing a tennis ball at fans. Not ideal!
5. John McEnroe
Born: Feb. 16, 1959, (USAF Wiesbaden, West Germany)
Grand Slam titles (7): US Open (1979-81, 1984), Wimbledon (1981, 1983, 1984)
Bottom Line: John McEnroe
John McEnroe was never better than when he played at the US Open in his native New York — he won four of his seven Grand Slam singles titles there, including three straight from 1979 to 1981.
But McEnroe was so polarizing as a player because of his on-court outbursts and bad-boy attitude. Any list of "most hated" players will inevitably have his name on it, but so will any list of the greatest tennis players of all time — kind of a Catch-22, you know?
4. Martina Hingis
Born: Sept. 30, 1980 (Kosice, Czechoslovakia)
Grand Slam titles (5): US Open (1997), Wimbledon (1997), Australian Open (1997-99)
Bottom Line: Martina Hingis
No one was more threatened by the rise of sisters Serena and Venus Williams than Martina Hingis, who defeated Venus in the 1997 US Open finals and then lost to Serena in the 2001 US Open finals.
Hingis decided that, instead of getting better at tennis, she would try a different tactic — accusing the Williams sisters of using their race to get endorsements. And things only got worse after Hingis was kicked off the tour for two years for testing positive for cocaine in 2007.
3. Serena Williams
Born: Sept. 26, 1981 (Saginaw, Michigan)
Grand Slam titles (23): US Open (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012-14), Australian Open (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017), French Open (2002, 2013, 2015), Wimbledon (2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016)
Bottom Line: Serena Williams
Serena Williams has had a lot of epic meltdowns during matches in her storied career, and she has saved some of her wildest moments for the US Open.
Nothing was more uncomfortable than when Williams lost to Kim Clijsters in the 2009 semifinals, and she threatened a line judge with physical violence after being called for a foot fault, waving her racket and saying, "I swear to God I'm [expletive] going to take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat, you hear that? I swear to God."
Williams received a code violation that ended the match, and she was fined $82,500, while Cljisters went on to win the 2009 US Open championship.
And Williams wasn't done there. After receiving a code violation in the 2011 US Open finals loss to Sam Stosur, Williams told the chair umpire: "If you ever see me walking down the hall, look the other way. You're out of control. You're a hater, and you're unattractive inside."
2. Lleyton Hewitt
Born: Feb. 24, 1981 (Adelaide, Australia)
Grand Slam titles (2): US Open (2001), Wimbledon (2002)
Bottom Line: Lleyton Hewitt
Lleyton Hewitt is the worst kind of loser. He'll throw anyone under the bus for any reason he can invent in his head. After he was called for a foot fault during a match against James Blake at the 2001 US Open, Hewitt accused the line judge, who is Black, of making calls in favor of Blake, who is Black.
While Hewitt lost the respect of a large portion of tennis fans for the rest of his career, he did go on to win the US Open that year.
1. Novak Djokovic
Born: May 22, 1987 (Belgrade, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia)
Grand Slam titles (23): US Open (2011, 2015, 2018), Australian Open (2008, 2011-13, 2015, 2016, 2019-21, 2023), French Open (2016, 2021, 2023), Wimbledon (2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022)
Bottom Line: Novak Djokovic
Three-time US Open champion Novak Djokovic owns more Grand Slam men's singles titles than anyone in tennis history — he also owns the title of perhaps the most hated player in tennis history.
Perhaps Djokovic's lowest moment came at the 2020 US Open when, in a moment of either distraction or frustration, he hit a female line judge in the throat with a tennis ball during a fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta. Djokovic was disqualified from the tournament.