A verbal abuse is an offense committed by a player for breaking the code of conduct as per the rules. A player is given a code violation for such misbehaviour and is heavily fined for the same.
According to the 2023 All Tennis Professionals (ATP) rulebook, “Players shall not at any time directly or indirectly verbally abuse an official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or any other person within the precincts of the tournament site. Verbal abuse is defined as any statement about an official, opponent, sponsor, spectator or any other person that implies dishonesty or is derogatory, insulting or otherwise abusive.”
A player who is given a code violation for verbal abuse is penalized in accordance with the Point Penalty Schedule during the match. The fine for a player who is caught for verbal abuse is up to $20,000 for ATP Challenger Tour tournaments, $30,000 for ATP Tour 250 tournaments, $40,000 for ATP Tour 500 tournaments, $60,000 for ATP Tour Masters 1000 tournaments. If a player is given a code violation of verbal abuse in the same season in a different tournament, the fine would increase by 100%. In women’s tennis, the fine for a verbal abuse code violation can be up to $10k.
If the verbal abuse is “flagrant”, “injurious to the tournament’s success” or “singularly egregious”, then the matter can be taken up by the Fines Committee. A decision is made whether the “player Major Offense of Aggravated Behaviour or Conduct Contrary to the Integrity of the Game” has taken place. If the decision is in affirmative, then the player can lose all ranking points and prize money earned in that event.
A New York Times report states that between 1998 to 2018, 62 professional men and 35 professional women tennis players were given a code violation for verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is a manifestation of a player’s mental stability which emphasises on the modern philosophy of developing an athletic mental strength.