Tennis players have searched the ends of the earth for any advantage on the court. From the newest training routines to the latest gear, we are quick to adopt strategies that promise success. In competition, we strive to play our best tennis. We strive, of course, to win.
We have also been warned to never underestimate our opponents. After all, our opponents push us to raise our game. Yet in order to achieve success on the court, we find ways to minimize the opposition to convince ourselves that our opponent is not invincible. But what if the opponent is too accomplished to be diminished?
During this year’s French Open, current world No. 131 Sebastian Korda reached the fourth round of the tournament where he faced none other than the king of clay, Rafael Nadal. Korda, who named his cat ‘Rafa’ after the 13-time French Open champion, was delighted to face his tennis hero. Before the match, Korda called Nadal his “biggest idol” and said he would be “the happiest person on planet earth” if he saw Nadal on the other side of the net. Korda lost in straight sets by a score of 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. After the match, he asked Nadal for an autographed shirt and proceeded to post his signed memorabilia on social media.
Nick Kyrgios, who achieved a career high ranking of world No. 13, was quick to criticize Korda for his tremendous display of respect for his opponent. “Probably why he got destroyed,” Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.
The sport of tennis was built on respect. If there is a place for respecting your opponent, I am left to consider…
Is it possible to respect your opponent too much?