Robin Soderling has gotten a bad rap in the tennis community.
Because of this, he has few fans.
Today might have changed this somewhat.
Whether he meant it or not, (and I don't want to imply that he didn't because I think he did) he said all the right things today at the ceremony. The only reason one might have to doubt his sincerity is that he really didn't have much choice as to what to say.
On this occasion, where everyone was so happy for Federer, he would have committed career PR suicide to have said anything short of full-on praise for Roger. In fact, I joked with my wife that, had he said something sarcastic or mean, he probably would have gotten worse treatment than the stalker from set two.
Be that as it may, Soderling was humble, grateful, respectful, and funny. Those are four trademarks of Federer and we see how popular he is.
And, even though Soderling wasn't doing it for the mileage, calling out specific names (his coach, girlfriend, and parents) ensured that they got on TV, and it's always easier to like someone when we see that other people do.
That's because we, as viewers, then have an internal conflict (if we didn't think we liked him before) in that we either have to question the judgment of those that know him better than we do, or question our own prior judgment about him.
Since he hasn't been a top player on our TVs for the past several years, admittedly our views may not be all that well informed.
Therefore, for most people watching, it will be the latter conclusion they come to and their view of him will soften or perhaps even turn positive (if they don't know his background and were just tuning in to catch history being made).
Robin Soderling will benefit greatly in terms of his future matches from doing this today.
Part of this is because it's hard to play against the crowd.
If he succeeded at just making the tennis world less distrusting or disliking of him, he will find his matches less cumbersome. He may have even made some new fans that will even cheer for him.
Secondly, when a player makes the other players mad, they want to beat that player even more. The best case scenario for a player is for the other players to like you.
When they don't feel so bad about losing to a player, it's easier for them to give up when defeat is seemingly at hand. That keeps the player from having to expend a lot more energy to finish off the match, which keeps them fresher into the later rounds.
And if he starts to win more, he will get more fans because some people are bandwagon types.
More wins and more fans translate into more prize money and, more importantly, more sponsors and more endorsement deals with higher paying contracts.
Soderling may later be seen as having had his proverbial 15 minutes of fame today.
However, with his actions and his attitude today, he may have just parlayed that 15 minutes into something much, much more valuable.