Late last week, I came down with a fever and cough, which zapped my energy. That allowed me lots of time to watch TV. And, being the sports nut I am, I tuned in to the Australian Open every evening. One thing that happened during the Nadal-Smyczek match took me by surprise, as it seems to have done to the entire sports world.
Near the end of a four-hour, five-set battle on the tennis court, during which Rafael Nadal suffered with cramps from the high temperatures and thick humidity, a fan screamed something just as Nadal swung his racket on a first serve. The ball went long. And Nadal stood still for several moments, glaring in the direction the scream came from. Then, as he was settling in to take his second serve, Tim Smyczek (pronounced “Smee-check”) caught the chair umpire’s attention and held up two fingers, indicating that Nadal should be given a do-over on the first serve. When the umpire told Nadal this, Nadal gave Smyczek a thumbs-up and a wave, took a little walk back to clear his thoughts, and then went on to win the match with the next two points.
In his on-court interview after the win, Rafael Nadal first congratulated Tim Smyczek, saying, “He’s a really gentleman. What he did in the last game is … Not a lot of people will do something like this in the six-five in the fifth set, so, after four hours, so just congratulate him for that, and I think he played a great match.”
During Tim Smyczek’s after-game press conference interview, he was asked about his show of great sportsmanship. His response? “You know, I thought it was the right thing to do.” Talk about a humble guy. (You can read more of his interview here.)
If there was a “great sportsmanship award” for the Australian Open, no doubt Tim would win it. But his action begs the question—and many have already posed it—what would you have done in that particular circumstance? (Read this article for responses from tennis champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka.)
Consider this: If Tim hadn’t motioned for the do-over, he would have faced an easier serve, as second serves are often slower than first serves. That might have been all he needed to take control of the match back in his hands and possibly even win.
And yet, he didn’t even think twice about his decision. He didn’t put his ranking of 112 at the forefront of his mind and think, “Hey, if I beat Nadal at the Aussie Open, I could move closer to the top 100.” He didn’t think about the respect he’d earn if he beat one of the world’s best tennis players of all time.
Because of his selflessness, he not only earned more respect from fellow tennis players, but also from people in all walks of life, all around the globe.
I first saw Tim Smyczek play last year and knew he was an American to keep my eye on in the game of tennis. Now I know there’s a whole lot more to “Smee” than I originally thought. Not only do I know it, but the rest of the world does too.
So, Readers, what would you do? When did you have an opportunity to show great sportsmanship in life? How has someone else shown great sportsmanship to you?
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