I wondered afterwards, what Nick was thinking.
Seriously. I’m not being smart. What was going through his mind, watching Roger and Rafa thrash it out on court in the pulsating finale to this year’s Australian Open.
Where was he? Was he even watching? I suppose that depended on what else was on telly. NBA season underway and all. We hear regularly, that’s where he’d prefer to be. On the pine, shootin’ hoops.
In fairness, I can understand if he didn’t watch the match. I’m guessing for the guys inside the tent – the tournament “also rans” – watching the final is a bit like watching your beautiful former fiancee walk down the aisle with her new beau, after she’s give you the Coke and Sars.
It’s where you wanted to be, hoped you’d be, but you’re not. You’re on the outside, looking in. Superfluous to requirements.
But well beyond the offerings of the match (passion, poise, drama, skill, determination, courage, brilliance … what have I missed??) there was the post match. Roger and Rafa reflecting, reviewing, re-living the most recent three and a half hours of their extraordinary careers.
Now Nick – this my friend, is something you simply have to see. If you did, great. I hope you recorded it so you can watch it again. And again. And again.
If you didn’t, please – get one of your team, one of your sycophantic enablers, to organise a copy of the vision. Then find a comfy chair, sit down with a pen and paper and analyse it. All the different dimensions. The words, the sentiment, the humility, the enjoyment, the respect, the sheer reverence the pair have for the game of tennis.
You need to see it. You need to see what we see.
I promise you Nick, I’m not throwing rocks. I’m not kicking the troubled young man, finding his way in life, dealing with the horrible burden of pressure and expectation. Some would suggest I’ve already done that. Multiple times.
What I am suggesting is that Australian Open final was pure sporting gold. It’s what the world audience craves from sport. From the first bounce of the ball, to the last question at the press conference – gold. I felt proud to be Swiss and Spanish, and I haven’t got a Swiss or Spanish twig anywhere in my family tree.
For you, Nick, watching it might just be one page in a passport to a better place. With a few “ah-ha” moments thrown in. Ah-ha. That’s what I should do. Ah-ha. That’s what I should say. Ah-ha. That’s how I should carry the trophy – over the shoulder, like a sack of potatoes.
The reason is this. From my observations working in and around elite sport for 25 odd years, elite athletes don’t learn from fat guys in suits, or old bald blokes with clipboards, or middle aged women wearing clinical gowns, with framed certificates on the wall behind the desk.
They learn from “the sheds”. The dressing room. From hanging around and watching their successful peers – how they conduct themselves, how they prepare, and what they do in order to win.
In Roger and Rafa, you’ve got two of the absolute best of all time, on and off the court.
Were they always like they are now? I’m buggered if I can remember. They seem to have been around for eons. In their youth they, like you, probably got a little hot under the collar at times. Bounced the odd racquet out of shape, swore at the umpire. But that’s OK. We get that. What we can’t cop … well … you know what we can’t cop. No need to dredge it all up again. That’ll just fire up the apologists.
What is certain…sport needs legends. And legends don’t appear overnight. They emerge over time, on account of what they achieve, certainly, but also how they conduct themselves, predominantly then permanently. For an extended period of time.
Along the way, they watch and learn from those at the top, while they are scrambling to get there themselves.
But when they reach the summit, they acknowledge they’re still just a brick in the wall of tennis fame – nowhere near as substantial or important as the game itself.
Ask Roger. Ask Rafa. Ask Rod Laver, the frail old bloke they embraced on the podium.
The bloke with his name on the wall of the stadium.
Over to you, Nick.
Thought of the month: “A great man is always willing to be little.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson