One of the things I love about high-level sport is the element of theatre. Two rival combatants slog it out to see who is the best so there is an outcome. We saw this yesterday in the Men’s Singles final at Wimbledon. The king of the court Novak Djokovic with his 10-year run of grass court wins against the young pretender Carlos Alcarez, barely 20 and not much experience on grass. Surely it would be a no-contest, but it was.
Novak with 16 years more experience knows all about the psychology of beating people. In the way he slowly bounces the ball before every serve, he extracts the maximum space for building fear in his opponent. It’s a way of controlling the situation to his advantage. But Carlos knew this and stared him down and after a stuttering start met fire with fire. He rose to the challenge head-on and gave as good as he got.
The young pretender had the crowd roaring him on while the Wimbledon champion seemed to want the crowd to hate him so he could use it to make himself the underdog. At one frustrating point, he smashed his racquet into the net support post. There’s a story here. The irresistible urge of the young to triumph over the old and rewrite the pecking order. To do that you must be tenacious, fearless, and audacious. These are the qualities of a true hero. Someone who summons up the self-belief and holds it all together when they are most threatened. And Carlos delivered all three.
I’m also interested in how the loser handles defeat. Novak was magnanimous in his praise and honestly admitted it was a blow. I wasn’t a fan of his but at that moment I sympathised with him because I saw how important it was and that he genuinely accepted he had been beaten by the better player. From moment to moment, they gave us an enthralling encounter – one that will live on for many people.
Sport and theatre give us a place to reflect on success and failure, on who we are and who we want to be and after the game is done we move on. These things are deep inside us all and we know one day the new king will, in turn, be beaten by a new pretender.
That’s my last blog until September so I wish you a happy and relaxing summer holiday.