Posted: Tuesday June 21, 2005 4:32PM; Updated: Tuesday June 21, 2005 5:14PM
Why is Rafael Nadal's 'in-your-face' attitude praised while Lleyton Hewitt's attitude is criticized?
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Some ruminations during round one ...
During matches, Rafael Nadal has the same in-your-face attitude as Lleyton Hewitt, and still the latter is criticized and Nadal is praised. Nadal celebrates everything -- including his opponent's errors. So why do people celebrate him and attack Hewitt for showing that same passion? Is it because he's the new kid on the block? -- Omar Tovar, Bogota, Colombia
This is a fair point a lot of you have raised recently both with respect (or with disrespect, as the case may be) to Nadal and to Justine Henin-Hardenne whom we've rechristened the "Allez Cat" for her mid-match exhortations. First, a lot of it is timing. When you hit a screaming forehand pass on the dead run to save a set point (as we saw Nadal do in Paris), you're allowed a self-congratulatory outburst. When you're leading 5-1 and you're opponent double-faults or shanks a routine backhand, it's distasteful to celebrate.
I'd also submit -- and Omar makes this point well -- that context plays a role. When you're the new sensation doing more than your share to popularize tennis, and you're otherwise treating everyone with respect, the critics will cut you some slack for a questionably-timed "vamos." When you have a dubious history of sportsmanship, you've made life miserable for so many within the sport, and you've had a beef with plenty of players in the past, folks are less forgiving of your etiquette breaches.
Instead of withdrawing from a tournament, why wouldn't a player -- particularly a mediocre one like Mariano Zabaleta -- play Wimbledon, even if they are aren't 100 percent healthy and aren't playing on their best surface? Isn't it worth the $10,000 prize money for losing in the first round? -- Kayla Ruth, Lawrence, N.Y.
You got me. And I would add that apart from the cash, there is something unsporting -- immoral even -- about not playing Slams simply because the surface isn't to your liking. Part of playing a sport means trying your best when the conditions are less than optimal.
On the other hand, when eligible players withdraw, it opens up slots for guys like Paul Goldstein. Many of you, including Sabari of Israel, passed along this terrific link.
The irony, after this article, Crash Goldstein lost in the final round of Wimbledon qualifying but made the main draw as a lucky loser.
Jon Wertheim will answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag every Wednesday.
A few weeks back Andy Roddick's sportsmanship was held up when he overruled the line judge and went on to lose the match. There were tons of e-mails and even a column about it. Marat Safin did the same in a bigger venue, the French Open, against Tommy Robredo at six-all in the fifth, and there was no mention of it. And he went on to lose the match. -- Subhadeep, Cincinnati
Fair point. And Nadal, I recall, gave Federer a call -- inciting instant applause -- late in the fourth set of their quarterfinal. As I said at the time with Roddick, when you're playing on clay and ball is going to leave indisputable proof, it's probably not the height of noble to concede a point or give the opponent another serve. On the other hand, these displays of sportsmanship are heartening.
Here's a hypothetical scenario to put into context about how large a lead Federer -- as of June 13th -- has in the ATP rankings: Imagine Federer (for some bizarre reason) chooses to enter certain events under an assumed identity, "Fred R. O'Greere". And suppose this phony Federer were to achieve the same results as the real Federer in those tournaments. Theoretically "O'Greere" could have attained enough points to be ranked No. 5 in the world at present, while the real Federer would still have enough points left over to be ranked No. 1. In fact the alias would only be about 300 points out of the No. 2 spot! -- Derek Sharp, Calgary, Alberta
Thanks. No doubt our Irish readers wish that O'Greere fellow were eligible for Davis Cup.