WATCH: Tennis Channel Live discusses Alexander Bublik's fun interview with Prakash Amritraj

At a time when compassion for athlete mental health overlaps with growing distaste for tennis players’ aggressive on-court behavior, how should fans respond to the tennis equivalent of a ‘rage quit’?

Two days after halting Stan Wawrinka’s comeback at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, that’s essentially what mercurial Kazakh Alexander Bublik did when, with no warning, he walked off the court on Wednesday.

Bublik had hitherto spent most of his Monte Carlo stay loudly railing against clay and clay-court tennis—even after knocking out the former Roland Garros champion in the first round, and acquitting himself well against Pablo Carreño Busta in the second.

“I hate clay, let’s put it this way. That’s a statement, guys. I hate this surface,” Bublik said after his first match of the European clay season. By his second match on the surface, the period became an exclamation point.

Bublik was up 6-4, 5-4 and serving for the match against No. 13 seed Carreño Busta but couldn’t convert; the Spaniard leveled the match in a tiebreak. Looking increasingly irritated by the prospect of a third set, Bublik nonetheless stayed on serve until 3-3—but after his serve was broken with a double fault, the Kazakh had enough.


Instead of walking to his chair for the changeover, Bublik went straight to Carreño Busta and shook his hand to signal the end of the match. As groans of disappointment and confusion rang out in the stands, Bublik took off, sending Carreño Busta into the third round with a 4-6, 7-6 (3), 4-3 (ret.) scoreline—he will next face Alexander Zverev. According to an ATP spokesperson in Monte Carlo, the retirement was due to a right shoulder injury and therefore Bublik will not be fined.

The bizarre episode is the latest example in a growing trend of players increasingly calling it quits mid-match—often without an explanation or obvious signs of injury, without a visit from the physio or tournament doctor, and without a warning to the chair umpire.

During the Sunshine Swing, two WTA matches ended in similar fashion. At the BNP Paribas Open, 20-year-old Amanda Anisimova was unable to capitalize on four match points against Leylah Fernandez when she was leading 6-2, 5-4. The American, who had parted ways with coach Darren Cahill at the start of the tournament, eventually dropped the second set in a tiebreak. That’s when Anisimova pulled the plug, departing in tears despite the chair umpire’s pleas to wait for a supervisor or doctor to come to the court.


Anisimova later revealed she was battling illness in a message posted to social media: "I've been quite sick the last few days and yesterday I woke up feeling very ill. I wanted to try and push through it in the match and continue playing the tournament. I couldn't go on with the match anymore because I felt like I was putting my health at risk at that point."

In Miami, Victoria Azarenka trailed 16-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova, 6-2, 3-0 before abruptly retiring. The WTA did not respond to requests for comment, though the Belarusian, who had broken down in tears during her own Indian Wells clash against Elena Rybakina, referenced stress in her personal life in a statement afterward.

"I shouldn't have gone on the court today," Azarenka said. "The last few weeks have been extremely stressful in my personal life. Last match took so much out of me, but I wanted to play in front of a great audience as they helped me pull through my first match [against Ekaterina Alexandrova].

"I wanted to go out there and try, but it was a mistake."


Bublik was serving for the match in the second set against Carreno Busta, but abruptly retired after dropping serve in the third set.

Bublik was serving for the match in the second set against Carreno Busta, but abruptly retired after dropping serve in the third set.

In all three cases, there was no physio requested—the first step in a retirement's standard operating procedure—which means little to no explanation for confused onlookers in the wake of the match's abrupt finish. As tournaments in Europe prepare to welcome fans in the stands again, should ticket payers expect to brace themselves for more of the same from their favorite players?

But what if the player's just had all they can take? If a player is sick—or just plain sick of it—is keeping them on court for a ceremonial six-minute medical timeout merely prolonging the inevitable?

And what do the rulebooks say? Sure, the WTA and ATP rules include clauses for “best effort” aimed at curbing match tanking and protecting the game’s integrity. But would it be ethical to force a player to continue competing when they are clearly unwell, physically or emotionally?

These are tough questions to answer, but improving communication—between players, officials, tours and media—will probably be the best starting point.

As the ATP's leadership takes aim at undesirable on-court behavior, and the WTA ramps up its own mental health initiatives with strategic partnerships, let’s hope there will be space for both tours to address the recent spate of mid-match quitting, too.