“So even when life is fair, it isn’t. Your chances in this world are proportional to the depth of your pockets; the house wins by virtue of being the house.” ~ Chances Are (p.68)
Is it better to be lucky than good? In Roger Federer’s world, you don’t have to choose.
Federer vs Melzer: US Open, 4th round; winner goes to the quarterfinals. Melzer’s never been to the quarterfinals of the US Open, and he’d really like to go. 2nd set tiebreaker; score: 1-1. Federer hits a forehand that just clips the top of the net cord. The ball hung momentarily, but just as with trickle down economics, “the rich just keep gettin’ richer”, and the point goes to Federer. Melzer is clearly frustrated, but regains his focus, and goes back to the business of scoring points. Then, at 4-4, with neither player having dropped a point, Federer hits another forehand on return of serve, and just as before, the ball clips the tape, and fate favors Federer, who goes on to win the tiebreaker, the 3rd set, and the match. Federer goes to the QF, Melzer does not.
Interestingly, at least to me, is the fact that – as best I can tell – Federer didn’t offer that faux, hand-in-the-air apology that’s become sort of expected these days. And this, from the sports defacto ambassador, the consummate sportsman, the embodiment of fair play and all-around niceness? What gives?
To be fair, he might have done the faux apology thing and I just didn’t see it. Or, maybe they didn’t show it? Personally though, I hope he didn’t do it. Furthermore, I hope the other players will follow his lead and do likewise. Why should any of us, pro or otherwise, apologize for winning a point, regardless of how that point was won? It’s hard to imagine anything more disingenuous than apologizing for winning a point. Plus, do you think for one second the apology has any effect whatsoever?
Think of it this way: if you’re lined up for a passing shot – your opponent is clearly beat – and your ball clips the net cord and sails out of bounds, do you expect an apology from your opponent? And does it ever happen? No, of course not. If your 2nd serve clips the net cord and sails out – a double fault – do you expect an apology? And it’s not just with tennis: In football, where’s the apology when the field goal attempt hits the upright, and bounces away? In golf, where’s the apology when the ball rolls around the cup but doesn’t fall in? Where’s the apology in NASCAR when that 2-tire pit stop didn’t play out like the crew-chief had hoped?
The fact is, in every sport – in life in general – chance is an ever present reality. It just is. Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don’t. I’d like to think that there is some cosmic justice to it all, but I doubt it. After all, wouldn’t it make perfect “life-ain’t-fair” sense if some people were born luckier than others?
Anyway, I hope you won’t think I’m rude for saying this, but if we’re playing tennis and my ball clips the net cord, don’t bother looking for an apology; there won’t be one because I won’t (and don’t, and never did, and never will) feel bad for winning a point due to chance, that’s just tennis.