September 10, 2011
Roger Federer is a great tennis champion who comports himself with class and dignity in victory. As a loser, his attitude leaves a lot to be desired.
Following his stunning collapse against Novak Djokovic in Saturday's U.S. Open semifinal, Federer took a jab at his opponent's decision to slap a crosscourt forehand on match point. In the eyes of Federer, it was a desperation shot unbecoming a champion.
First, watch the shot again. John McEnroe called it one of the best returns in tennis history.
Here's Federer's post-match quote:
"Some players grow up and play like that. I remember losing junior matches and being down 5-2 in the third and they start slapping shots and they all go in for some reason. That's the way they grew up playing when they were down. I never play that way. I believe hard work's going to pay off. [...] So for me this is very hard for me to understand how you can play a shot like that on match point. But maybe he's been doing it for 20 years. Maybe for him it's very normal. You'll have to ask him."
It wasn't said in a conciliatory tone. It was said like a man who thinks that shot was beneath him, who thinks that Djokovic was disrespecting the game by having the audacity to play such a point.
Djokovic's explanation was simple. "You have to take your chances when presented," he said after the match.
Even if Federer is right and Djokovic was taking a "devil may care" attitude, it doesn't make the shot any less legitimate. It's like a football coach going for fourth-and-3 in the fourth quarter. Desperate times, desperate measures right?
Nothing against Federer, mind you. I like athletes who care so much it hurts. When Peyton Manning walks off the field at the Super Bowl without shaking hands or LeBron James does the same, I don't have a problem with it. Sportsmanship isn't about phony handshakes and false compliments. There are plenty of ways to be a good loser that don't include giving the opponent a man-hug at center court and speaking cliches about how you gave it your all but didn't have enough. Taking passive-aggressive shots against your opponent isn't one of those ways.
Considering how gutted I was (and still am) for Federer after the match, I can't fathom what he felt like in the aftermath of the loss. No amount of disappointment should lead to jabs like that.
Win with class, Roger, lose with class.
Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
• Photos: 9/11 tributes in sports over the weekend
• NBA player takes on another pro job
• Soccer star Ronaldo gets a little grabby with a teammate