The Problem With The Pedestal

Cindy HopcusCorrespondent IJune 27, 2010

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 16:  Mens finalist Rafael Nadal and  Roger Federer of Switzerland hold aloft their trophies after the mens final match during the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open tennis tournament at the Caja Magica on May 16, 2010 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

With each passing day of ATP tennis play, we find our tennis hero’s precariously perched on their respective pedestals.

Looking back over the past two years we’ll see where Roger Federer’s career was all but over (in the press). He had the misfortune of contracting mono and more recently he had the audacity to grow older.

Rogers’ pedestal is particularly high. He has attained so many lofty goals and achieved them with such consistency, that he is not allowed to be human. If he has an off day or a cold start to a tournament, the press and others comment that the end is near.

Even on a bad year, Roger has such incredible stats that most others pale in comparison. It must be very difficult to command that small area at the top of his pedestal, sometimes there isn’t even room for him.

Last year Roger won his first Roland Garros, his 6th Wimbledon and reclaimed his number one ranking.  For a man on the way out, his pedestal seems to be standing tall and firmly planted into the heavens.

Federer began his quest for an unprecedented 7th title at the SW19, across the net from another player, Alejandro Falla, who came not only with a hot racket, but a feverish desire topple Federer’s pedestal. Like a champion, Roger battled back and in the end was sent on to the next round. His pedestal was pitching a little to one side, but he was still on top.

Rafael Nadal has been Rogers’s biggest adversary. Nadal’s pedestal also requires a great deal of maintenance to stay on top.

Rafa went from the new world number 1 in 2008,to being sidelined with a multitude of ailments in most of 2009. These pedestal-toppling ailments were proclaimed to be the beginning of the end for him. His pedestal is very slippery too.

Nadal’s Velcro was to get healthier and win every clay court major in 2010. After picking up his 5th La Coupe des Mousquetaries, his pedestal was once again propped upright and his number one ranking recaptured.

Yesterday at the Championships at Wimbledon, Nadal’s pedestal was once again in jeopardy. It would seem the chair formed the opinion that Rafa was being coached. Well, as a spectator I could not see nor hear any coaching, but as the press was quick to point out, Toni Nadal is so good at it that even they cannot see him doing it, even with all the camera playbacks!

There is that pesky pedestal again, wobbling in the innuendoes that built it and keep it upright. For all the years of hard work that Nadal has put into his tennis prowess, he had to address the pedestal topplers and make it known that he was not being coached.

His worthy opponent, Philiipp Petzschner who was really taking his "A" game to Nadal, stated that he did not think that there was any coaching. But at first was he was taken back by the trainer time out, only later to recant that it wasn't really gamesmanship on Nadals part.

The pedestal I have been speaking of is comprised of many things both positive and negative. It can have a long life, but is usually toppled shortly after it is built. The pedestal we put our sports hero’s on is built partly with our personal wishes to perform at those dizzying heights we see on television ourselves. Those dreams are both unrealistic and fantasy based like all good dreams.

The pedestal has to include a worthy topper, a champion among champions. He or she cannot have any weaknesses or losing season. If they have the stamina to impress the international press Corp, then they will have a longer life up in the clouds. If the press finds fault with their game or their clothes, who the date, what they eat, or how they played on that last point, then the pedestal is sent, metaphorically, to Italy and compared to a falling antique tower.

With great passion and respect for the game, as a life long tennis fan and novice player, I hope the pedestals that are created by the press will not topple the pedestals that a true fan has made in their mind. Those pedestals have a longer shelf life and are built with great care. Take pride in your passion for the game and don’t be fooled by the trend happy press. For the record, that was not a coached statement.