There was a time not too long ago, when the heroes of most little boys were athletes. They were larger than life figures showing us their wondrous talents but they were also mysterious. The only way for us to decipher their personality came from snippets of interviews, paper clippings and from the data we could gather from the back of a hockey or baseball card. It was easier to believe in those heroes because rarely would we witness to any of their faults. Today however, that personality is no longer mysterious as Twitter, Snapchat and a bevy of other social media provide us with so much (dis)information and scrutiny that all faults are exposed. Athletes that could have been and would have been heroes to millions are now just great athletes and not the role models our youth need. Tiger Woods and Pete Rose might fall into that category.
There are a few athletes that although not perfect, as no one ever is, do however stand up under today’s scrutiny. Athletes that are not only worthy of our respect and admiration, but worthy of being proper role models to our children. This past Sunday we didn’t just witness one such athlete at centre stage, or should I say centre court, we had two. And because of it… tennis, sports in general and sports fans everywhere were all the better for it.
Roger Federer won the 2017 Australian Open defeating Raphael Nadal in another five set thriller. We could spend pages writing about their ground strokes and how accurate and powerful they always are. We could talk about their serve and volley or their return game as they continually perform at such high levels. We could break down every single point of every single game; the winners and the unforced errors and we would only see what we already know. Federer and Nadal are arguably the two best tennis players to ever play the game. We could write about all those skills but to me, what makes them so special is much more important than just hitting a ball perfectly.
— 9GAG (@9GAG) January 29, 2017
When you watch these two giants play, especially against one another, you notice a few things. The first is that they have such a high level of compete. Think of a player such as Michael Jordan who as we later found out would compete as hard in a hotel game of Rummy as he did in every NBA finals. For Nadal and Federer, regardless of the situation, regardless of the score, you can never count either of these professionals out. On Sunday, Nadal was up a break and leading 2-0 in the fifth and deciding set and that would have crushed the spirit of most men. Federer is not most men however and found a way to come back. Secondly, they never give up. So if you hit what would normally be a winner against anyone else, you better be prepared for a return because most often than not, you will need to hit a few “winners” to get a point. They each strongly believe that there is no shot they can’t get too and on top of it all, will find a way to return it for a winner.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 29, 2017
Finally and most importantly, they carry themselves on and off the court with class. Federer is rarely in the news for anything other than tennis. There are no scandals to discuss, no arguments to take sides on and there isn’t even a picture of a boat trip before a big game. What you read about these two is about how well-spoken they are, how polite and insightful their interviews are. They have so much respect for the game, for each other and for themselves. It is such a shame that they are both nearing the end of their careers as they will be greatly missed. So thankful however that we got to see one last gigantic battle.
Do we dare hope for another?
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