January 6, 1992: The day Pescosolido’s racquet kick left an audience member with stitches

Every day Tennis Majors takes you back in time to look back at a noteworthy moment in tennis history. On this day in 1992, a young Italian kicked a racquet in anger that got him defaulted out of the Sydney Open in the qualifying stage

6 January 2022
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What exactly happened on that day?

On this day, January 6, in 1992, Stefano Pescosolido, from Italy, was defaulted from the Sydney Open qualifying event. Facing local player Johan Anderson in the second round, the Italian got angry after missing a return at 3-2 against him in the third set. He kicked his racquet in anger and it unfortunately hit a woman in the audience in the face. Despite his apologetic attitude, Pescosolido was immediately disqualified.

The players involved: Stefano Pescosolido and Johan Anderson

  • Stefano Pescosolido: the rising Italian ranked No 65 in the world

Stefano Pescosolido was born in 1971 in Italy. He turned pro in 1989 and broke into the top 100 for the first time in 1991. That year, he reached the semi-finals in Los Angeles, defeating world No 20 Michael Chang in the second round (4-6, 6-2, 6-4). At the end of 1991, he was ranked No 65 in the world, which was his best ranking so far.

  • Johan Anderson: the Australian Open junior champion transitioning to the ATP Tour

Johan Anderson, born in 1971 in Sweden, represented Australia. He was very promising as a junior: in 1988, before even turning 17, he received a wild card for the South Australian Open in Adelaide and made his way into the semi-finals (defeated by fellow Australian Mark Woodforde, 6-1, 6-4). The same year, he triumphed at the Australian Open juniors’ event and turned pro in 1989, but he wasn’t as successful on the main tour yet. His best ranking so far had been No 90 in 1989 and in January 1992, he was ranked No 141 in the world.

The place: Sydney, Australia

One of the oldest tournaments in the world, the Sydney Open Tournament of Champions, as it was called in 1992 (formerly known as the Championship of New South Wales and New South Wales Open), was established for the first time in 1885. Initially held at Moore Park, it moved to Double Bay in 1908. However, since 1922, it was played at the White City Stadium, close to the Sydney CBD. The event switched from grass to hard courts in 1989. Legends such as Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver had won the event in the 1950s, and more recently, the title was claimed by top 10 players like Miloslav Mecir (1987).

The facts: Pescosolido apologises and is fined

In January 1992, 21-year-old Stefano Pescosolido, 21 years old, held the best ranking of his career and had flown to Australia with big ambitions. He first played in Adelaide where he reached the second round (defeated by Goran Ivanisevic, 6-4, 6-3). In Sydney, he failed to make the cut for the main draw and he had to enter the qualifying draw, where he was the sixth seed. 

Everything started well for the Italian at the White City Stadium. He beat Nicklas Kulti, from Sweden, in the first round of the qualies (6-3, 6-2), and won the first set of his second round against local player Johan Anderson (6-2). However, he lost the second set (7-6) and was broken early in the decider. At 3-2 for Anderson, Pescosolido missed a return and slammed his racquet to the ground, and when it bounced, he kicked it out of anger. This proved to be a costly mistake, as the racquet flew straight into the right eye of a spectator, whose eyebrow was cut. 

The Italian, who wasn’t known to have a bad temper, ran to apologise and to check up on the woman he had accidentally hit. There was no way he could avoid being defaulted though. 

“I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt anyone,” declared Bill Gilmour, then referee of the tournament, according to oktennis.it. “But players have to be responsible for their actions and if you expose yourself to undue risk, you have to pay the consequences.”

“I felt bad about what happened and I would not have continued playing anyway. I didn’t do it on purpose, it was a moment of anger,” explained Pescosolido in the press conference. He also sent flowers to the injured spectator, who had been taken to the hospital to receive stitches. This nice gesture wouldn’t spare him from the mandatory $1,500 fine.

What next? Pescosolido would never get defaulted again during his career

Johan Anderson would be defeated in the qualifying round by Cedric Pioline (6-7, 6-2, 6-4). He would never surpass the ranking of No 90 in the world he had achieved in 1989.

Stefano Pescosolido would never be defaulted again during his career. In fact, the Italian would claim the first of his two career titles a few weeks later, in Scottsdale, defeating Brad Gilbert in the final (6-0, 1-6, 6-4). Thanks to this win, he would reach his highest ranking as world No 42.

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