The more I watch Roger Federer on the tennis court the more confused I become. How can someone so nice be so ruthless with their opponent? And then it strikes me. He’s not ‘nice’ – an insipid and misused word meaning not much at all – he’s simply a bit of an old fashioned gentleman.
He’s well dressed, to a point just shy of being a fault or a sign of vanity – the best dressed on the circuit. He’s polite. He’s magnanimous with those he defeats and, on those rare occasions it is required, he is abundantly gracious when he loses. He is also married to someone of which both your mother and father would approve: loyal and supportive, as well as pretty. And he has two children, twins (that they are twins might not be important).
These are all hallmarks of the old fashioned gentleman: uncompromisingly respectable, but determined enough to do his job properly and not feel ashamed for it.
If you’re confused, I will explain. We in Britain (and possibly elsewhere, but I’m not so concerned with that) have a problem. We think being successful and winning is in some way wrong. Not all of us, and it’s getting better, but we have confused ourselves. Somewhere along the way we took a wrong turn and now many of us are suspicious of those who do well, especially if they are British.
Roger Federer doesn’t have this problem. To him, not giving your best, not participating in the competition fully, is an insult to your opponent. He wins so often not just because he’s brilliant at tennis, but because striving to be the best and achieve success is unequivocally a good thing.
Andy Murray did brilliantly this year at Wimbledon, and he seems less encumbered by this deleterious baggage, and I hope he wins a Grand Slam sometime soon (or the Olympics), but Federer represents everything a champion should be. This is why he can be both ‘nice’ and a winner, and this is why we regard him so highly.
Now, if our evil, corrupt, capitalist, banker masters of the universe could just take note.