Keep your mouth shut and write home more often.
If that’s the only lesson Canadian up-and-coming tennis star Milos Raonic takes from his perfectly clinical, straight-set loss to veteran Swiss star Roger Federer in the 2014 Wimbledon semifinals, it might turn out to be of enormous help to him in the future.
Yes, Raonic made it all the way to the semifinals, making history for Canadian tennis in the process. Whether he would have made it facing Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals, now, that’s another question. American commentator (and former tennis star himself) John McEnroe doubted it. Except, Raonic defeated Aussie wild-card entry Nick Kyrgios, the guy who had removed Nadal from his path. All those ifs and buts are neither here nor there.
Here’s what the Canadian ace star had to say BEFORE the encounter:
“I’m going to step out there and I’m not playing the seven-time Wimbledon champion. I’m not playing a 32-year-old man. I’m not playing the father of two sets of twins, which is a very low possibility bet to do. I’m not playing the guy that’s won whatever he’s won, which I could probably list quite vividly. I’m playing a guy that is standing in my way of what I want to achieve, and I’ve got to focus on everything that’s there, on the situation, how best to deal with it to give myself the best possibilities to achieve what I want.”
Aware of the significance of a potential win against Federer, Raonic continued thus: “It can be if I get the job done. I focus on what I need to do. Everything else is a ripple effect. Everything else is a reason. I have to create the cause for it by playing good tennis and giving myself the possibility to win.”
Of course, his record against Federer (four encounters, four losses) was not much to be proud of. But, characteristically, Raonic refused to consider the past more than it deserved (in his considered opinion): “He’s gotten the better of me all four times, but I haven’t played him in more than a year, a year and a bit, so I think I’m a different player.”
At least he knows he hasn’t got a winning record against Federer. But: “I’ve got in close with him in the past. I’ve found a lot of those things (that will help me) sort of pull away. That gives me a lot of belief that I can do this. So there’s no point to talk about it. I’ve got to step up and do it.”
He stepped up and did nothing. He only got close to breaking Federer’s serve once, and that was it. Close didn’t do it, either.
Don’t believe that Raonic’s intemperate remarks about his opponent’s age made it all the way to Federer’s bulletin board. Professionals do not need their opponents’ critical observations to motivate them. All this talk about bulletin board material, so popular amongst the sports commenting community, has been overblown beyond belief. Federer himself is a consummate professional. He knows how to motivate himself without any stupid remarks made by his opponents.
Now, Raonic may be on to something when he hints there might be a change of guards in men’s (gentlemen’s, in Wimbledon parlance) tennis forthcoming. After all, it doesn’t really take a professional philosopher to observe that nobody can run away from time (and, consequently, age).
The game of tennis has included – since its early age – mutual respect. Yes, we’re talking about huge chunks of change these days. The difference between making the finals and not making the finals is measured not only in the status of those who did make it and those who didn’t, but also in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
If Raonic knew his history, he would have been aware that disrespectful behaviour is not something that would earn him respect amongst his professional colleagues. His humongous serve, complemented with a game that includes more variety than it used to, will. His remarks about future opponent being old won’t.
No, it’s not about making friends within the tennis world. As Raonic’s compatriot, Eugenie Bouchard, observed quite correctly the other day, they all are in a war for one goal: victory. So, how can one talk about friendships off the court when they are fighting each other on it?
Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest champions in the history of not only women’s (ladies’, in Wimbledon parlance) tennis, but of tennis generally, sees it differently. Navratilova has never had issues with sharing a sandwich with an opponent with whom she was about to step on the court, when they had to wait too long for an earlier match to end.
Compare Raonic’s testosterone-filled pre-game statements to what Eugenie Bouchard had to say before her first Grand Slam finals match: “She (Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova) has good shots which are very powerful compared perhaps to opponents I played in the tournament. I think she will try to attack, but I will try to do the same thing. I think both of us will try to put pressure on each other. I think it will be important to start the points well on serve and on return. It will be the first shots that decide the match.”
Kvitova was very much matter-of-fact, too: “Bouchard is playing (a) very solid game. She’s a very good mover. She’s nearby the baseline. I think it’s very similar to my game. I beat her for the first time last year, but it’s long time ago. This is totally different. So, I mean, I really have to be focusing on everything and try to push her.”
And yet, ladies’ tennis seems to facing a change of guard, too. Gone are the Williams sisters, both Serena and Venus, gone is Maria Sharapova. Viktoria Azarenka is nowhere to be seen. Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, and any given number of others still show some sparkle, but not enough of it to rule the roost much longer.
Speaking of the Williams sisters, quite a few U.S. commentators have been guilty of attributing their early departures from tournaments to a variety of health concerns. Rather unsportsmanlike, that.
If you’re sick, don’t play. And if you do play and lose, don’t use health concerns as an excuse.
In 1982, the above-mentioned Martina Navratilova lost her U.S. Open quarterfinals match to Pam Shriver. She had been suffering from toxoplasmosis. Medical staff were telling her to quit because playing would only make matters worse. Navratilova tried to keep her condition secret in the after-match news conference. She did not want to diminish her opponent Shriver’s joy. Navratilova would only admit it under pressure (someone must have known), and still, she insisted that Shriver beat her because she was better that day.
In any case, the difference is hard to overlook.
The only thing missing from Raonic’s extravagant statements was for him to tear his shirt, beat his chest, and yell: “Me Tarzan!”
If the only thing Milos Raonic learns from his loss to Roger Federer were that respect breeds respect, it would be worth his (and everybody else’s) while.
Tagged: Ana Ivanovic, Eugenie Bouchard, Jelena Jankovic, John McEnroe, Maria Sharapova, Martina Navratilova, Milos Raonic, Pam Shriver, Petra Kvitova, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Tarzan, testosterone, toxoplasmosis, U.S. Open, Venus Williams, Viktoria Azarenka, Wimbledon