There was a time when competition in every sport were turning into rivalry. This seemed fair enough for the sport. But, this rivalry take in any sport later extended outside the game which was not a healthy sign at all.
The fans and millions of viewers are just a mere reflection of the love they have for their sports heroes. They admire them, follow them and few like me worship them. Sports and Sportsperson have a task of inspiring people not only by their playing skill but also by their on and off court behavior. In this case, I cannot help but think about only two persons who brought glory to their sport, by means of their matches and sportsmanship. Those two are Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal.
There has been many such duos in tennis history. McEnroe-Borg. Sampras-Agassi. And lots more. But, these two Gentleman Roger & Nadal, were and still are way ahead than the rest in all. Be it, the quality of the matches they played, their mutual admiration and the extreme level of rapport they had every time off-court.
I am a die-hard fan of Rafa. They were times (even now) where Rafa is considered the best than Roger. Here is where, Rafa did something which made millions of fans like me admire and respect time. Time and time, he has always kept Roger in the highest regard and even went on to say that if a person says that I am better than Roger, then that guy never knows tennis at all. True. Roger is the GREATEST of all times. The number says it all. Rafa has never played down on Roger in any interviews or speeches.
Roger, on the other hand has credited Nadal whenever and wherever possible. He never fails to mention that many a times, Nadal had the better of him. These were words from the Greatest Player ever. Humble.
Mutual Respect & Admiration. Sportsmanship. All these words can be personified as FEDAL.
Let me take an illustration, Australian Open 2009. Rafa beat Roger in 5-sets. That was Rafa’s first hard court Grand Slam Title. In the presentation ceremony, Roger broke down. He was totally down and opted not to speak. Later, Rafa was given the Trophy. After lifting it and without any delay, he went and placed his arms over Roger’s shoulder and consoled him.What they spoke, nobody knows. But, that incident clearly depicted the respect he had to Roger and Roger re-iterated the same in the speech later in the ceremony. By this gesture, they showed to the millions in the world, what sportsmanship is all about.
Such level of sportsmanship can never be seen in any other duo. They were called RIVALS. Yes. On-court. Off-court, they are not. They were never arrogant in their behavior on and off court.
Djokovic was said to be arrogant in the way he expresses his victory over Rafa. He tore his shirt after a Grand Slam final victory against Rafa and many such instances have been quoted. This behavior only showed Djoker’s intensity and importance in the way the match was won. By nature, Djoker is hilarious. His pranks and mocking is loved by many. But, a few take this in the wrong way. Everybody cannot be a Roger (calm in victory and defeat). Players are different. Their expressions are different. Djoker and Rafa, share a good rapport. Djoker is more open in his interviews. He said that Rafa is beatable on clay and many said that his talk was arrogant. But the fact is, Rafa has been beaten on clay in the past and even now. The problem lies in the way Djoker expresses his actions and words. Had he used alternate words, then I hope he would not have been mistaken.
Remember. Djoker broke into the No.1 rankings when Rafa and Roger were still playing. It is a big thing. Is it not ? You cannot say Rafa was injured or Roger was getting old. Djoker had the play to reach the pinnacle of tennis rankings. Let him be hyper-expressive. It would take time for him to realize. He surely will. Rafa was also very expressive during his teens. But, gradually he reduced it. You can very well see the difference. I write this because, I have seen many abusing Djoker for his gestures and interviews. He reacts, responds not. But soon, he will respond.
Murray. The other big name. Hardly in the news, but a highly skilled player. A very good friend of Rafa. Murray can be seen being upset by the fact that Rafa retired due to injuries in the 2010 Australian Open Quarter-Finals. Though a victory, Murray ceased to be happy seeing his friend getting injured again. Rafa was the defending champion then.
These small gestures, make fans inspire. In due course, things would be much better. Sports tends to be healthy because of the player’s gesture towards their peers. Player’s off-court behavior is being noticed more than their on-court. It is the player’s responsibility to maintain the dignity and decorum of the sport and sportsmanship.
Qualities like modesty, respect, admiration are more valued than victories. Fans must also be sensible enough to learn from their heroes, both positives and negatives. Respect your hero’s opponent. Remember, Rafa got better because of Roger. Djoker got better because of Rafa. Mutual. Think over it.
For me, Roger & Rafa are the biggest. Both in terms of quality of play and in sportsmanship. I have learnt a lot from them. Still learning a lot from them. Tennis & sportsmanship will never be the same without them. FEDAL. Cheers.