Monday, January 30, 2017

Honoring the Olds

This was a beautiful weekend.  Yes, I am pleased with the results.  I couldn’t handle it if Rafa had crushed Fed – never mind Fed’s breezy insistence that getting to the finals was winning enough.  I would however have been fine if Venus had beaten Serena, but only because it was Venus.  But in this Fed happens to be absolutely correct – Venus making it to the finals was winning enough.

This was a beautiful weekend, characterized as it was by a celebration of the Olds.  Long-term readers of this blog will know that I have long argued against the pressure placed on aging players to submit their retirement papers.  Like Marion Bartoli promptly did after finally winning Wimbledon, and who seems to have remained a confused mess ever since. 

Retirement, ideally, should never be rushed.  Yes it’s all well and good to go out on top.  But that does not mean that you should make a mad rush into the decision to give up a career for which you have worked very hard for many years.  Marion’s mad rush to retirement has never made sense to me.  I wonder if she regrets?  Will Ni La regret?  We know that Clijsters did because she came back to the sport after having her first child.  We know that Kimiko Date did because her phenomenal return turned out to be inspirational. 

For the longest while, in the world of tennis, one got the impression that everyone was always looking for the next great thing, the next It Girl, for the players with youthful promise.  Having been spotted, such players are then made much of, hailed loudly as the bearers of tennis’ future.  Think Donald Young, or Melanie Oudin, or Eugenie Bouchard.  So much expected, so little delivered.

In the frenzy to find the next great thing, coaches could be seen scouting among the Juniors, trying to identify the player with promise, the one who could make them a quick buck in a short period of time.  Having done so, they could be rapidly discarded as the search for their immediate replacement continued.

In the meantime, aging players become increasingly subjected to clarion calls to retire, to move on, to make room for the next great thing.  And this is not easy on the It Girls or Boys either.  Such pressure they face to deliver on the promise, to prove that having been selected and honored, they are expected to rise quickly to the pedestal of success.

I’ve never understood this.  I’ve never been able to fathom the loud calls by co-called fans that so-and-so needs to retire.  It takes time to develop expertise and experience.  Why does tennis find it so hard to give that the respect it deserves?

Why is it not an option for any player to do like Roger Federer – take six months off to properly rehab an injured knee, and then return to playing when ready?  Why retire when there is still a fire in your belly?

(Part 1 of 2)

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