A lot has already been written and said about the loss of Roger Federer to Tom Berdych in the quarter finals of the just concluded Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships. Most of the commentary has been on what a poor loser he has appeared to be after his post match utterances. Well, be that as it may, I believe that there are other indicators during the game itself that don’t speak very well of the distinguished sportsman that he has been.
Right from the time he walked on to the court to the time when he connected his beautiful cross court winners or to the time when he could not respond to the booming serves and the delicate drops, the attitude moved from a steady arrogance to self-pity. Arrogance that proclaimed it was only him who deserved to be out there and the rightful heir to all the attention. And self-pity in the way in which his body stopped responding to the talent on the other side of the net demanding to raise the standard of his game.
As Berdych started taking risks he believed to overcome a champion, Federer was steadily climbing down from his own stratosphere shutting the doors on all the opportunities that could have been his. At a moment when his learning should have been at his peak, he had shut himself off completely in the spirit of single minded focus. His focus was the championship and a seventh Wimbledon title whereas the task on hand was more to win the current match on court.
Underestimating the competition is one of the biggest mistakes; whether in sports, life and / or business. It doesn’t speak poorly of the opponent, but of oneself. The character of an individual, team, organization and / or nation is defined not the spirit in good times, rather in adversity. The inflated pressure of asserting the so called champion behavior was carried by Federer on to the court and he had to live up to its characteristics. On the other hand, Berdych had to play beautiful tennis and dominate the game to reflect an infectious innocent exuberance towards his box at the end of the match which saw him emerging as a winner.
There is nothing wrong with Federer’s game. But everything wrong with his attitude. Even last year when he broke down after winning, it was a cry out of self pity. That he felt, the planets had conspired to deny him what was rightfully his. There have been some very elegant champions in the game of tennis and none more than Pete Sampras, who he is trying to emulate. There is a lot to learn from someone like peat who was always a dignified persona treating each of his opponents with respect and each match as though it were his first.
It is never late to learn. Federer has everything going for him including the admiration of those whom he picks to scorn. But tennis is just a game and there will be days when another player is better inspired to draw a result in their favor. Nothing in life is permanent and for good. There is a great to learn from the sincere hug which Rafael Nadal gave Andy Murray across the net after beating him in the semi finals. The camera close up caught a sincere expression of Nadal saying how sorry he was for Andy, but he had to do it. It was just a game!