In the wake of arguably the greatest Australian Open final in history, it is as though an ancient secret to sporting success has suddenly become apparent. The longest match to ever be seen on the Rod Laver Arena (also the longest ever Grand Slam final) served the purpose of revealing what it takes to become a true champion. Does one require superfluous skill to be remembered as one of the greatest? Is unstoppable grit and determination needed? The short answer is yes.
But to prove yourself a winner worth remembering, you need much, much more. On that infamous Sunday night (turned early Monday morning) in Melbourne, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal showed the world that ultimate sporting success requires character, grace and sportsmanship; nice guys can get somewhere in this dog eat dog world after all.
…best in the world at their trade,
Indeed, sport is filled with tremendous personalities – the kind of people who you relish meeting during your working day. Millionaires, the best in the world at their trade, but never too arrogant to sign an autograph or acknowledge their traveling supporters. Novak Djokovic embodies this attitude; the Serb has now proved beyond doubt that he is the best male player in tennis. But what of him off the court?
The man is widely publicised as a gentleman and, moreover, the ‘joker’ of the tour (even having the song “the joker” written about him). His light-hearted antics, ranging from impersonating his fellow tennis players, to starring in a cameo role for the upcoming Expendables 2, have won him fans across the globe. Not only will the 24 year-old be remembered as a man of steel and winner of multiple Grand Slams, but as a charming, polite and graceful competitor, too.
…no Las Vegas style trash talk,
Djokovic’s defeated opponent, Rafael Nadal, is another perfect example. The Australian Open saw one winner and one runner-up; yet, in the eyes of the fans, there was no loser. Both players put up a grueling fight, but entertained and offered each other the utmost respect at the same time. In the post-match interviews, Nadal and Djokovic were full of praise for each other – no jibes, no Las Vegas style trash talk, just kindness from the depth of their hearts. Gone are the days of McEnroe swearing at all those around him; now tennis’s biggest advert is the sheer kindness of its champions.
Of course, at this point, the discussion naturally leads to Roger Federer. The Swiss perhaps emulates the human side of sport to an even greater extent than the current world no. 1 and 2. Federer, the well-spoken, well-mannered athlete, is the definitive role model. Now a family man, Federer has never received bad press, never disrespected his rivals and never had anything bad to say about anyone who has beaten him. It is this reason that makes him the Great that he is. Without this ability to step off court and give credit where it’s due and behave impeccably at all times, one questions whether Federer, or indeed any sportsperson, could achieve as much as they have.
And it doesn’t just apply to tennis…