Wed, February 04, 2009
Sports > Tennis & Golf > Australian Open tennis tournament

To Federer and fans: Enjoy the moment of pain

2009-02-04 06:50:22 GMT2009-02-04 14:50:22 (Beijing Time)  China Daily

Switzerland's Roger Federer cries as he watches the trophy being handed to Spain's Rafael Nadal after their men's singles final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne February 1, 2009. [Agencies]

Spain's Rafael Nadal (L) puts his arm around Switzerland's Roger Federer, as he poses with his trophy, after their men's singles final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne February 1, 2009.[Agencies]

I always believe the true sport is much more than joy of victory. Pain of failure, on the other hand, is another attractive side of it. And I must say, if I have exaggerated it, a pathetic story makes the human nature of a hero perfect.

A tearful Roger Federer before a crowd of 15,000 at the Australian Open victory ceremony convinced me of this thinking more than ever. The Swiss tennis maestro became emotional when he held the runner-up cup beside his long-time great rival Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard dethroned the former top-ranking Swiss last August and this time stole the title of hard court that Federer specializes in.

"Maybe I'll try later. I don't know. God, it's killing me," said Federer, a graceful man both on and off court. He couldn't resist confiding his true feelings, which could be read through his forced smile and halting words. He then bowed his head and used his index finger to wipe his red eyes. But Nadal encouraged his rival with appreciative applause and the crowd drowned out their sobbing icon with a deafening stand ovation.

To a great sportsman like Federer who ruled the tennis world as world number one for 237 consecutive weeks with 13 Grand Slam titles under his belt, winning one more title would have been the icing on the cake. But this title is not other than the one Federer had been pursuing to equal Pete Sampras' 14-Grand-Slam-title record. The final moment in Melbourne Park was really heart-piercing for Federer, who has been struggling to recapture the top ranking from the younger Nadal at the age of 27. The maestro was just like a crying child who was robbed of his favorite toy by his playmates.

But Federer later said he didn't regret at all about his public crying and was confident that his fans would understand. For a Federer fan like me, I feel increasingly affectionate towards him after I found he is such a sensational man off the court, as well as a level-headed one on the court.

That is the nature of a true man who tastes bitterness - he is just a true man who wants to win.

The tears of the loser left the cutthroat face-off between the world's best two players with a touching end. The picture of Nadal putting one of his arms around the choking Federer while holding his own trophy will be an ever-lasting moment shared by the two greatest players of my generation.

In that picture, Nadal is smiling with the joy of victory and comforting his rival friend; Federer, red-eyed, is smiling, with the pain of failure and appreciation to the Spaniard. The two men spoke well for the realm of sports: win a good win, lose a good loss.

Before the moving victory presentation, it was a nail-biting match that lived up to all expectations. When Federer came from behind to level Nadal 1-1 after nearly two hours, I knew there was no use expecting either of them to have a smooth win. When Federer managed to force the deciding set with a 2-2 tie, I began to relax, waiting for God to select the winner. But when Nadal dropped joyfully to the ground after Federer sent a groundstroke long to present the first Australian title to a Spaniard after four hours 22 minutes, I was neither sad nor happy.

Why? Because the pulsating match itself had overwhelmed the result with the wonderful shots and volleys the two played during the over four hours are still fresh in my mind. The winner deserved cheering and the loser deserved sympathy for their epic showdown. The triumphant Nadal and the devastated Federer were both glittering memories in tennis history.

I believe Federer could have managed to hold back his tears if he tried. But his tears interpret his greatness - a runner-up finish is killing him. And that is why fans could share the bitterness with him: a fallen great player is still great, sobbing or smiling.

I remember a slogan chanted by English football fans after their team was ousted by Brazil in the quarterfinals at the 2002 World Cup, saying "Don't Cry for Me, England". The slogan was coined from the song "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina". It's a touching sentiment expressing that fans stay loyal with their team, winning or losing.

I also remember the pained face of injured Chinese Olympic hurdling champion Liu Xiang on the Beijing Olympic track. The stunning exit of China's biggest Olympic hope on the track is engraved in Olympic history and his fans cherish him even more.

Also at the Beijing Olympics was Katerina Emmons' kiss to her husband Matthew Emmons who missed the medal podium simply because of the poor last shot. And this became a sweet memory for fans, who not only remembered his dramatic loss, but also admired the shooting lovebirds' kissing moment.

True feelings make true men, and true men make true sport.

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