New Balls, Please

Yesterday Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open Men’s Tennis Final. In grand style. His opponent, Andy Murray, was Britain’s great hope and the nation stood anxiously by as he lost yet another Grand Slam final. Commentators said Djokovic won the match as much as Murray lost it. And lose it he did, in more ways than one.

I am not a huge fan of the Scotsman, Andy Murray, I have to confess. His tennis is great, constantly getting better and he works hard at it. However, I find his on-court behaviour and monosyllabic, monotone demeanour tedious and frustrating to watch. His post-match interviews tend to be the same whether he’s won or lost. I heard a comedian say that Andy Murray made Gordon Brown (the then British prime minister) look charismatic. I think you get the point.

So yesterday, in deference to my husband’s Scottishness, and as a temporary resident of Great Britain, I chose to support Andy Murray in the Australian Open final. After about ten minutes I wished my allegiance lay with the balletic, crazy athletic skills and calm demeanour of Novak Djokovic, who was so much easier to support. I found the childish, pouting tantrums that have come to characterise Andy Murray’s game, really difficult to watch.

He yelled at his “team”, he told them to relax and calm down, he told them to “shut up” and he swore like a trooper at almost every error in his game. He kept his eye, worryingly, on his team’s box after every shot, as though he was going to get into trouble for playing badly. His head hung low through most of the match. He threw his racket on the ground, he smashed the ball back across the court when he made yet another unforced error, and he ranted and raved. His mental attitude clearly didn’t serve him well.

In the post-match award ceremony, Andy Murray conceded that his friend, Novak’s, game had been unbelievable and he deserved to win. He then went on to say thank you to all the right people: his team, the tournament organisers, the volunteers, the court-side staff and all his fans.

Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, thanked his team and said he wouldn’t be where he was without them. He said that although tennis is an individual sport, he could not continue without the hard work that happens, for him, behind the scenes.

“I love you, guys,” he called out to his team. They, in turn, applauded as they took photos of their man of the moment, and shouted back, “We love you too”.

He thanked his family, mentioning his brothers in particular. He thanked the Australian Open team, he acknowledged the suffering of those who’d lost loved ones or homes in the devastating floods in Queensland, and he dedicated his newly-won trophy to his troubled home country, Serbia.

How differently this would this have played out had the final result been different, I cannot be sure. But based on yesterday’s performance, this is how I see it:

Two superb athletes? For sure. Two international sporting icons? Without doubt. Two true sportsmen? I’m not convinced. Let’s see what happens next.

Sunshine signing off for today!

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34 thoughts on “New Balls, Please

  1. There are a lot of childish players in tennis today. I find it very sad. I’ve seen so many broken rackets, temper tantrums, retirements from games that weren’t strictly necessary, unsportsmanlike conduct, threatening of line judges and officials, and mistreatment of ball boys/girls and chair umpires than I’ve ever wanted to see. Culture has degraded one of the most gentlemanly/ladylike sports we had. It’s a shame.

    Andy Murray has never been a favorite of mine because of his surly attitude. I much preferred the Brit before him that carried the nation’s hopes on it’s shoulders (I believe his name is Tim Henman, but I may be making that up). I’d love to see more poise served up in future.

    1. Too true, 2blu! I agree with you; bring back the poise.
      You’re right, the last British hope in tennis was Tim Henman – he’s a tennis commentator over here now. Boris Becker is also a regular commentator on BBC.

  2. Good points, Sunshine! It’s easy to get frustrated with yourself when things aren’t going to your liking, but as professionals, these athletes should be held to a higher standard. After all, some little kid is probably looking up to them and, seeing their success, will ape their rotten behavior in hopes they too will become successful. So sad.

  3. I find I’m frustrated with many players in professional sports in general. The public idolizes them and looks up to them, but they often act like petulant children. Does anyone else feel like it’s just getting worse? Sure, their athletic skills and talents are undeniable, but I’d rather look up to people who are doing something to help the world be a better place who are often unheralded.

  4. Man. I’ll tell you. I’m happy anytime Murray goes down in flames. That guy has a terrible attitude. I’m always astounded he’s made it this far.

    Love Djokovic, though. You’re right–he’s a skilled player and a great sport, two critical elements for an entertaining match.

    1. I’m with you, Maura. I don’t understand how he doesn’t get fined – I know racket abuse is one thing he can get fined for, but what about the language and behaviour? At one stage the commentator of yesterday’s match said, “Once again, ladies and gentlemen, I must apologise for this bad language.”
      Djokovic is a true star, a brilliant tennis player and I adored his winner’s speech.

  5. Teaching at a resource for autism I see a lot of people who have special abilities without the social circuitry to relate to those around them. Their abilities are completely striking but they cannot communicate with others: their game, their music, their maths is all about a pure relationship with technique, the ability to immerse themselves in a world which has the language which makes them comfortable.

    Communication does not come into it at all.

    Nevertheless the make strides, and tread paths no-one else ever has.

    It’s a puzzlement.

  6. Okay, I know next to nothing about tennis, or less than nothing, if that’s possible. However, I do know a tiny thing or two about human nature. So I say, it was good of you to support the Scotsman out of loyalty to your husband. You are clearly caring and I like that quality. Also like the way you end this post with a question–works well.
    hugs from Haiti,
    Kathy

  7. “He kept his eye, worryingly, on his team’s box after every shot, as though he was going to get into trouble for playing badly.” – I found this observation particularly interesting. Though I know nothing about Andy Murray, perhaps getting in trouble for playing badly might be something he has faced before, though it certainly does not excuse his bad behavior. I am always curious as to what makes people behave the way they do. Hmm, something for me to ponder. Hugs, Diane

  8. Yes, what a shame when someone’s attitude spoils the game.
    I wonder if you have read Andre Agassi’s book, OPEN. It is quite good, and I can’t think of tennis now without thinking of the book.

  9. Ah, you had me at the title. We often tend to forgive rude and childish behavior from our athletes because they are talented and because they entertain us and because when they win, they make us feel good about our town or our country. All that does is to encourage them. It’s a downward spiral.

    1. Wow, I hope they take a break every now and then!
      I don’t know about that, Carl – you’ll have to enlighten me. What I do know about France and tennis courts is that they have a cracking tennis tournament in Paris in May.

  10. There really is no excuse for that kind of behavior is there? I didn’t watch the finals coz both my favorites (Nadal & Fedex) weren’t playing. Sometimes I wonder whether they behave this way because of stress and the pressure to perform, but that’s the same for everyone and yet most players handle themselves with dignity. It’s sad to see this happening in almost every sport and in some, being tom-tommed as a sign of healthy aggression. When Australia were the No.1 team in cricket, they were pretty obnoxious in the field under the guise of being competitive! Sad 😦

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