Men's tennis does not need a dominant figure.
Fundamentally, the most endearing and enduring aspect of sport is its unpredictability, the simple idea that in any particular set of circumstances, through sheer will and luck and the interplay of a myriad of factors, the odds can be overcome.
It's the simple belief that application and dedication to the cause rewards just as much as lavish ability and worldwide acclaim.
It's no fault of Novak Djokovic's, but tennis has lost it's unpredictability. The field of potential winners for each tournament has shrunk so much that the usual favorites aren't favorites any more and the usual underdogs will never be favorites.
The general consensus has always been that when there is a leading figure, the others will automatically work hard to catch up and bring him down. And sometimes it is true. After three losses last year to Novak Djokovic in Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid, Rafael Nadal finally played his best sets of tennis since the 2010 US Open at the Rome Masters almost seven months later. He lost and continued to lose, but he'd responded. What the general consensus fails to realize, though, is that after so many losses, while motivation isn't necessarily lost, belief is.
And when belief is lost in the player's mind, the unpredictable runs very, very far away.
Secondly, partisanship will always have a place in sport. There are many variables that come into play in choosing a particular player that we like or dislike. Our choice can be influenced by our surroundings, what we are exposed to, our family histories, genetics, etc.
And that choice of who we like is sacred. It means a lot to us. We subsequently invest our time to watch them, we invest our money to support them, some will even make sacrifices that are unheard of for that player.
Ultimately, we live vicariously through sport. No matter how much we try not to, we just can't help it.
While the phrase "through thick and thin" is worn out beyond measure, its relevance is never going to be lost. The fact is that for a majority of tennis fans, when our players lose, we lose. When they win, we win. So what happens when this one dominant player is one that we don't like, we are indifferent about or, more acutely, we are always losing to? What happens when only a certain group of tennis fans go home happy everyday?
The others lose belief. Alienation occurs, then frustration, then bad blood, then disillusionment, then disenchantment, then disinterest—and then tennis as a whole starts to suffer.
Thirdly, tennis as an artistic form suffers. Some people may reason that six-hour tennis matches are the be-all and end-all of tennis, the best money can buy—but are they really?
The great thing about sport is that it can be approached, understood and played in a variety of ways that are unique to each individual. Now, if we are unique as people, shouldn't the way each of us plays sport be unique as well?
The problem with a dominant figure in tennis is the clustering of styles of play. Evolution is all about innovation and finding ways to do things better—but of what use is innovating to the lower-ranked player who looks up to the dominant figure and sees him standing on the baseline for six hours and going home with tons of money?
Tennis evolves because the players evolve. A dominant figure inspires people to want be like him. Sport, however, is all about celebrating difference.
As such, I say that no one man should have all that power.
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