Tennis Prose



What is the best part of winning an AO match?

Recently I had the pleasure of watching the chess great Bobby Fischer be interviewed by Dick Cavett on You Tube. The interview was from the 1970’s when Cavett was the king of TV interviews and Fischer was the Novak Djokovic of chess.

Fischer’s demeanor even reminded me vaguely of Djokovic, the smiling, relaxed, jovial nature and the playful cockiness and natural unbreakable self-assuredness of being world renowned as the very best in the world at something.

The best part of the interview came when Cavett asked Fischer, “What is the best part of playing chess?”

Fischer smiled mischeviously and delivered a straight-forward answer, completely devoid of political correctness or sugar coated BS.

“To break his ego. To see his ego broken.”

It was an incredibly brave, bold, honest reply on national TV by Fischer, a revelation that no champion of a one-on-one sport would ever dare say today. For fear of backlash from the bleeding heart clubs.

Could you imagine the uproar at the Australian Open press conference room if Djokovic were to say his favorite part of winning a match was “to break the ego of my opponent.”

Tracy Austin said on USA Network in the 1990’s that “tennis is a fistfight without the fists.” Of course she never dares to illustrate tennis in such violent terms today on her Tennis Channel broadcasts, because it’s a politcally incorrect metaphor.

But could it be the basic primary essense of tennis is not hitting beautiful strokes or trusting the process, but to try to establish physical and mental superiority over an adversary and ultimately to destroy that adversary/enemy?

That the real pleasure, satisfaction and reward derives from not sticking to the gameplan and executing my shots and staying in the moment, but it’s really mostly about overcoming and conquering a combatant?

This summer at my tennis club, one of our best players, a nationally ranked senior said he was preparing for a tourament down in South Carolina. We wondered why he would drive so far just for a minor tennis tournament. He replied “I just want to beat someone.” The man is 68 years old.

Imagine what a world class peak and prime professional 33 year old feels like before a tournament… underneath the fancy outfits and all the flowery cliches and sanitized press conference quotes, cleaned up and dulled and dumbed down so they don’t provoke any commotion or criticism in a newspaper, magazine, web site or social media.

Bobby Fischer may have told us what tennis is really all about: To break an opponent down and see his ego shattered.

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