Try Again. Fail Again.

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

I admire Stan Wawrinka. Seemingly doomed to be the foil to the magnificent Roger Federer. Like Andy Roddick and David Ferrer, a great tennis player and great in an era of the Olympian players Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and, certainly, Roger. Even when he won the 2008 Olympic Gold medal for Tennis Doubles, the story-line was that he was Federer’s partner.

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I witnessed Stan in full form on the opening round of the US Open in 2009, the year that Del Potro upset Roger in 5 sets including 2 tie-breakers. Roger lost late and Stan lost early; also in 5 sets, also with 2 tie-breakers, also to a South American, Nicolas Lapentti of Equador. Roger defeated on centre court before an audience of 23,000+; Stan defeated on a back court of the BJK Tennis Centre before an audience of several dozen, although the Ecuadorian flag and soccer-style fans out-sung their size. When people ever ask about being at a US Open, I answer with the vignette that ‘you can get so close that I once handed Stan Wawrinka a ball at the short fence in the middle of a match (the Lapentti one).’

His victory over Djokovic in the French Open of 2015 followed by their late 2015 Davis Cup victory versus France – this time he carried Roger with the bad back – certified Stan as a top player and much less of Roger’s hitting partner.

Then came Stan the Man, the indecipherable signature tattoo on his left arm, the ugly shorts and the wonder if he had only partnered with Magnus Norman earlier in his career.

For the third year in a row, he’s won a Grand Slam tournament and now has 3 as does Andy Murray, by the way. Tennis fans are no longer surprised when Stan goes deep in a tournament and no one really expects him to come out on top often. After all, the magnificent four are still around with Murray on the rise, Joker in the driver’s seat, Roger and Rafa waning.

I didn’t believe that Stan would defeat Djokovic on the anniversary of 9/11. Tennis, to me is like all sports, respite from, much less representative of life and the affairs of living. Stan won in 4 sets; Joker wasn’t his normal abnormal self, although he played well enough to win the match. Stan was braver in the end. More confident. More determination. More backhand. Most honest about his nervousness just prior to the match and his conviction to fail better throughout the match.

Roger Cohen of the NY Times reflected on 9/11 in an editorial published on 12 September, the morning after Stan’s victory. He makes a point that we honor one another not by wallowing in the past but by honouring the future of the past. He even says it, “by failing better.” I thought that he had to know what is inscribed on Stan’s left arm although RC does not mention it. But I want to.

We have Stan with another late in his career Grand Slam victory; his credo published on his arm; the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and what that’s done or what we’ve become, if only temporarily, as a result = the choice between a Hillary and a Trump. As Roger Cohen suggests, it’s obvious what we should do. There is no need to wait for anyone.

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The New & Improved Stan the Man

Monday, June 8th, 2015

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I’m kind of sorry that Djokovic lost yesterday’s match for the French title which would have fulfilled his quest for the career grand slam. I really hated to see Roger lose to Stan earlier in the week. In the end, great for Stan, good for tennis and a superlative example of tenacity and sportsmanship for us all.

A first serve percentage of 67 accompanied with 60 winners is even too much for the great defender and returner, Novak D, to withstand or is it With-Stan?!

In watching the match, I admired their sense of fair play, desire to win, vivid mutual respect and, especially, the prolonged recognition of Novak by the audience as he accepted the Finalist and Runner-Up trophy.

I believe that we admire our sports heroes because they can be examples of diligent sacrifice in the pursuit of excellence. Indeed, Stan and Novak are athletically gifted individuals; their singularly unique achievements are founded in commitment and persistence. I cannot wait for Wimbledon.