Pressure Is a Privilege
People cry not because they’re weak, it’s because they’ve been strong for too long
— Johnny Depp
On Sept. 12. of this year, Novak Djoković was on the verge of achieving a great tennis feat — Grand Slam — winning all four major titles in a calendar year. When Rod Laver did it, back in 1969, the pro tennis circuit just started, and, while a great achievement in itself, nobody imagined that it would become such an elusive Holy Grail of men’s tennis and that nobody would achieve it since.
All he had to do is win one more match, the US Open championship finals. That’s it. If he were to do it, he’d also get his 21st grand slam title — the new record, further extending his chances to be crowned a tennis GOAT — the greatest player of all time.
But, he couldn’t do it: he lost the final US Open match to Daniil Medvedev, convincingly, while not playing nowhere near his ability. During the match, in the 3rd set, probably for the first time in his life, he realized that he’s going to lose and that he can’t do much about it. Then he cried, during the changeover. He tried to hide it under the towel, but we could all see that he’s crying underneath it.
What those tears actually meant?
Not many people understand sports and what sportsmanship really means. In a nutshell, it means doing your best in the field, on the pitch, trying to maximize your efforts to achieve victory. Once the game is over, win or lose, you shake your opponent’s hand and move on. There are no grudges, pettiness, excuses. All great athletes know that and that’s what distinguishes them from others.
The media hype
The media was in hyper-drive during the recent US Open championships. The pressure was palpable. Nole was on a verge of achieving something truly remarkable, something that gained importance with each passing day, each passing match. Although he repeatedly said that he doesn’t want to think/talk about it, the media didn’t care. They were just pestering him with questions about it, day in day out.
Nole’s only mistake was getting all this media hype to go to his head a bit. He is human, after all. He tried to focus on his game exclusively, but, in the end, the pressure of the moment proved too much for him to handle, under the circumstances.
Chip on his shoulder
A lot has been written about western media not liking Nole. Don’t want to get into that, you can read it in this wonderful article. The truth is that he isn’t as popular, in western media, as his fellow contemporary greats. He also let that bother him a bit. He wanted to prove them wrong, he wanted, a bit too much, to be liked by the same media.
Curiously, by losing the US Open final, and by letting his emotions come to the surface, he actually endeared himself to the notoriously tough New York crowd. As if they liked him better when he was losing.
But, as Laver himself said, take heart, Nole, the quest continues. Your year has been exceptional, by any standards; so is your illustrious tennis career, thus far. You may or may not have a chance of achieving a Grand Slam again; the future will tell. In the greater scheme of things, it may not be as important as you think of it right now. What matters is that you are a great human being and a great champion: you have results to prove both.