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!