What is it about Australia’s current tennis ‘stars’ which makes them think that they are God’s gift to the nation (or to the world, for that matter); that they deserve their flashy cars and late night parties; that their losses are never due to their opponent’s skills but to the lack of support from one person or organisation or another?
The recent outbursts and surly demeanour at their press conferences have not endeared Bernard Tomic or Nick Krygios to this tennis fan and, I am sure, to many others. Rather than accepting defeat and acknowledging the superior skills of one’s opponent, we hear all sorts of excuses and complaints about “lack of respect”.
I grew up admiring Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Newk and many others. These guys, and women greats such as Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf amongst others, didn’t only know how to play the game. They were great sportsmen and women not only in relation to their skills, but also in how they respected their fans, their nation, teammates and opponents.
Can you imagine Rod Laver complaining about the lack of support from Tennis Australia, or Newk being arrested during a late night party overseas? Speaking of late night parties, while these guys have every right to relax and blow off steam, don’t they have any training discipline or regime, or a coach who might remind them that they need sleep?
Somehow, I think these young spoiled sports of today are just one more manifestation of what is wrong with society, and how society values all the wrong qualities. We are in the ‘selfie’ era, when photos of one’s self are posted online ad nauseum, because the self is all that matters. There seems to be very little regard or appreciation for the society which has provided these athletes with the opportunity to develop their skills, to become professionals and to earn a bucketload of money in the process.
Someone needs to remind these young, gifted athletes that they are very lucky – not only to have the innate skills which enable them to be professional tennis players, but also lucky to have been born in an affluent country which can provide them the support, in organisations and individuals, to develop their skills. To snub them, such as the disdain that Bernard Tomic expressed regarding Pat Rafter and Tennis Australia, in his press conference after losing at Wimbledon, is just pathetic.
Someone should also remind them that tennis is a game, and that they are entertainers. These boys are good at hitting a ball back and forth over a net. It is not a matter of life and death. Their skills do not benefit society at large. They do not cure diseases, teach youngsters or care for the poor or elderly. The world doesn’t stop spinning if they win or lose.
Basketball legend Julius Erving, “Dr J”, was asked in 1983 about his feelings after losing the grand final, the NBA championship. He replied, “I don’t feel incomplete or inadequate in any way because I haven’t won an NBA championship. I don’t lie awake nights and think about it. I know I’ve given my best to the public, and the rest is really out of my hands. I can accept that”.
Tennis legend Boris “Boom Boom” Becker, who played to win all the time, expressed similar thoughts after losing an early match at Wimbledon in 1987: “I didn’t lose a war. Nobody died. Basically, I just lost a tennis match”.
Wise words from two legends!
Being a gifted athlete is not a license to be a surly, spoiled brat, and many others – much better players than these two ever will be – have shown sportsmanship along the likes of Laver’s and others from his generation. Roger Federer doesn’t carry on like Tomic or Kyrgios. He is as gracious in defeat as he is in victory, as is Novak Djokovic.
I hope someone gets through to not only these two young players but all youngsters on the way up the tennis ladder. Tell them to do their best both on and off the court. Let them have their cars and parties, but don’t forget to teach them some respect, too.
Do you agree? What should be done to get these stars into line?