AS someone who struggles sometimes to control his temper I can sympathise with David Nalbandian, the tennis player who kicked an advertising hoarding into the shin of an official at the ATP Queen’s Club final, causing a bloody gash in his leg.

Before people jump on their high horse to trample me unceremoniously into the dirt, I’m not condoning his behaviour. It must have been very painful for the line judge Andrew McDougall. The shin is not wellprotected by muscle, fat or even flesh and when you get hit there it hurts – a lot.

The powers that be were right to disqualify Nalbandian for his overzealous reaction but it is a pity not only for the man he struck and the Argentine player himself (he was winning the match) but for his opponent Marin Cilic, who was handed a hollow victory, and for the people who had spent their hard-earned cash on tickets.

When the red mist descends it turns many of us into raving idiots or some of us into even bigger idiots than we are already, often with spectacularly bad results.

Remember, in Nalbandian’s defence, this wasn’t Eric Cantona performing a vicious kung-fu kick on a fan but a moment of madness from a committed professional who lashed out at an inanimate object with predictable if wholly unintentional consequences.

But better a raging beast than a wet blanket like our own ‘Tiger’ Tim Henman or his successor, Scottish misery guts Andy Murray with his fantastic array of grotesque gurning expressions. For all Nalbandian’s faults, at least he has a bit of fire in his belly.

But he could at least have tried to sound contrite. What we saw on Sunday was the death throes of an endangered species – the gentleman sportsman.

Gone are the stiff upper-lip, good grace and old-fashioned finesse once as closely linked to this elegant sport as a player’s sparkling tennis whites.

You would expect such behaviour of a footballer but a tennis player? Surely not. I had hoped these players would be paragons with the power to transcend the histrionics of the brainless thugs and preening prima donnas of the beautiful game. If you look around you this problem is not just confined to sport. Bad manners are everywhere in abundance from people letting doors slam in your face to that idiot who cuts you up on the motorway on your drive home from work.

Faced every day with such disgraceful behaviour everywhere I’m falling back on the musings of that late, great philosopher Michael Jackson. If you want to make a change, start with the man in the mirror.