The topic of this article may first seem a little strange for some people. Obviously, respect is not something we are used to read about when opening the sports magazine. And still I think it can raise an interesting discussion that won’t leave the Ukrainian tennis fans indifferent. I am speaking about the discussion because this time I propose to change a little the usual way the article goes. At first when picking the topic I thought I am going to right down my thoughts and explain my point. But it turned out not as easy. The more I was thinking about the role of respect in tennis the more I understood that it’s not that one-dimensional. I realized that this is a much more complex question and there are several ways of looking at it. Moreover, depending on the personal ethics and principals in life everybody will have a different answer to it. That’s why I will be looking forward to your comments and opinions. Please send your emails to the email address of Tennis Club magazine or to my sports agency’s email address (email@example.com). And to start with I will just say a few words about what does respect in tennis mean to me.
The usual definition of word “to respect” would include “to have a good attitude towards someone and to recognize his merits and good qualities”. Since the very young age we hear about the respect to the elderly people, to the colleagues and in general to every person around us. But how often do we see the sportsmen following these norms? How often while watching the tennis match the spectator would admit the worthy behavior of the players? I am not only speaking about those matches that we see on the TV, but also about any first round match at the small regional tournament. And speaking in general, what would be the worthy and respectful behavior for sports?
I strongly believe that on the court we behave just the same way as we are in life. Of course there are different situations but on the big scale it is like that. Just on the court we have a very little time to take the decisions, a lot of stress moments when we have to act fast the react on what is happening. It’s such a small model of the big world.
And you cannot simulate the worthy and respectful behavior. It simply doesn’t work. For example, from the very beginning of the match the player speaks very politely with the chair empire, takes an extra care to what is happening between the points, does not scream the victorious “Come on!” when winning the important point and never points the feast towards the opponent’s face… He does all that just until the moment when the situation goes out of his control. Maybe the chair empire makes a bad call or the opponent does something that makes him unhappy. In this moment the real emotions will come out. So everybody will be able to see what are his values and how does he control himself in the tough moment. What is really important for him and what is not. If the player thinks that to prove his point he can yell, scream, through the racket and assault people around him, then the image he was trying to create in the beginning will just vanish under the new face.
After reading some articles and books about this topic I saw that many authors distinguish the different parts of respect. They speak about the respect to the opponent, the respect to the coach, respect to the team, to your doubles partner, to the referee… I am not a fan of such thing. I think, either there is a respect, or there is not. Either you have a worthy behavior (again, this is just my own point of view) toward every person around you no matter what is the situation or you have different values.
But then we have another question coming up: is it a necessary condition to be respectful in order to win? Honestly, after giving a thought I realized that it’s not necessary at all. Moreover when the player has to much of respect to his opponent he starts to play against the name rather then just playing the real person on the other side of the net. In the individual sport to get the results it’s very important to do the things what you need and not to pay attention to what the other people want. So in this case the extra respect is not helpful at all. But there is a backside of it. If you don’t respect your opponent but on the same time he beats you then you put yourself on even lower level.
For me the respect in sports expands far out of the court lines. It reflects all the aspects of tennis life. You will be surprised when you know how few players say “Hi” when meeting at the stadium corridors. Although it’s the simplest thing you can do. How often after the practice there are empty ball cans and water bottles left on the court. This is also part of the disrespectful behavior in this case towards those people who organize the tournament as well as to wards the other players who will be practicing on the same court after you. At the end of the day the way we treat others is the way we want to be treated by them. So does it mean that in this case we don’t care at all if the court is clean or dirty when we are coming to practice? I think being disrespectful to others you are disrespectful to yourself on the first place.
Probably there are two different ways to envision the success in sports. We can judge by the position in the rankings, but the quantity of matches won and prize money earned. In this case the victory by any means becomes the only valuable goal. You don’t need and probably don’t want to be respectful. But there is another way to see things when successful sports person does not only win matches but also is a personality, a role model for the upcoming generation. He is an athlete that every kid wants to be like when he grows up. This player will hold himself with such dignity and class no matter how difficult is the moment that all the others will have a lot of respect to him regardless on the result of the match.
I think that for me this behavior model describes what I feel like speaking about the respect in tennis. After many years on the professional tour I have a lot of respect to many players who maybe did not reach the very top of the professional ranking. But thanks to their hard work, professionalism, their attitude towards themselves and others, towards the sports they play, these athletes had a lot of recognition.
These principles are brought up from the childhood time, for tennis it would be the time when the kid just comes to the sport. A lot of it is the goal of the parents and the first coach. But it does not mean that you cannot learn it when you are older. It’s enough to watch the best players in the world to understand the model of behavior you want to have for yourself. Besides that I also believe that on the court the classy behavior helps to control the emotions better. It helps to understand what is really important and what is not worth spending your energy for. Respect to the team helps in the difficult moments when you feel you are not alone out there. Respect to the opponent lets you accept that he made a good shot and stop blaming yourself, but prepare for the next point. And self-respect is when we believe in ourselves and know that we can win any match and be successful.
Those are my thoughts on this topic. As I’ve already said I will be looking forward to hear you opinion about this interesting subject.
With my best wishes,