Watching Marcos Baghdatis upset Andy Roddick at the Australian Open, I realised that tennis is a metaphor for other sports. First of all, I share commentator Dick Enberg’s opinion that the reason we all love sports is because anything can happen. Secondly, this match illustrated a bevy of non-sport related fundamentals that are relevant to any athlete or coach
What I learnt from Andy Roddick: Roddick’s body language was appalling. He looked like a loser, quibbled with the umpired, and at times did not seem to be in a ready position. There are things you can’t control – the arena roof closing due to the weather, net chords, crazy Greek fans cheering in the stands like a soccer match – but you can always control how you carry yourself. Keep your head up and your shoulders erect. Play your game, ignore the umpire. Do your best and play until the last point.
What I learnt from Marcos Baghdatis: Baghdatis came into the match with a gameplan and stuck to it. He was very aggressive, playing inside the baseline and forcing Roddick to back up. Although he was talented, he knew he needed to be disciplined the beat the world’s second ranked player. Baghdatis patiently constructed the points so that he could use his forehand as much as possible. He ignored the rankings, put himself on the line, and won a great match.
This match was won on the court, where Marcos Baghdatis out-worked Andy Roddick. But it was also won off the court because Baghdatis was not intimidated by his favoured opponent and out-prepared him. Had Baghdatis completed one task but not the other, the result may have been reversed. If Baghdatis didn’t work hard because he thought that he’d out-prepared Roddick and assumed that that was enough, the result definitely would have changed.
I truly enjoy basketball, but I enjoy the spirit of competition more. I love watching two athletes playing against each other in a major championship, doing whatever they can to win. Miniscule differences – mentally and physically – decided who was saluted by a stadium of cheering fans and who faced a “long walk” back to the locker room. The thrill Baghdatis experienced when he attained a new personal best (and the challenge of the work still needing to be done) makes the effort and sacrifice entirely worthwhile.