Djoker’s art of winning hearts

Tennis players do throw towels and wristbands towards their supporters, and Andy Murray recently gave a shirt to a fan who had been encouraging him, but giving a racquet with which you win a tournament is definitely extra special.

Novak Djokovic gives the racquet with which he won the French Open to a boy in the crowd.   -  Getty Images

Novak Djokovic’s gesture of giving the racquet with which he scored the point to win the French Open to a kid was such a heartwarming gesture. The boy couldn’t stop jumping up and down in excitement, and such are the pictures that make for excellent viewing on TV. Sure, the skill levels, the ability and agility of the contest can take one’s breath away, but it’s such human gestures from sportspersons, who invariably are in a zone where nothing matters except what the opponent is hurling at you, that leave an impact that is remembered well after the result of the match. Much as a sportsperson trains his mind to ignore and forget the unwanted jibe and comment from the crowd, there will always be a part of the brain that will store away the odd comment that has struck home, so to say. Sometimes a player responds, sometimes he just ignores and goes about his business.

There was this classic response from Steffi Graf when just as she was about to serve, someone in the crowd shouted, “Steffi, will you marry me?” Graf stopped bouncing the ball, looked up in the direction from where the marriage proposal had come, and asked: “How much money you have?” Everybody burst into laughter at her quick-witted response. A similar proposal many years later to Maria Sharapova got a disdainful look in response, to re-emphasise her haughty image. This is not to criticise Sharapova, who, unlike Graf, was not winning at that stage, but just to illustrate how different minds think and work differently.

READ | An opportunity lost for Naomi Osaka

Another incident that comes to mind is when Jimmy Connors was outfoxed by Arthur Ashe in the Wimbledon final in 1975. Connors was expected to roll over his opponent, but found himself two sets and 3-5 down in the third set when a supporter shouted “C’mon Jimmy.” Connors retorted: “I am trying, for god’s sake, I am trying.” It brought the house down as Connors was known for fighting for every point, but here he was looking utterly helpless against the wily Ashe.

Djokovic later said that when he was two sets down against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the French Open final, it was the boy who kept his spirits up with advice like “keep the ball in play, hit to the backhand” and such like. It will be interesting to see if the boy grows up to be a tennis player himself, especially after the memorable gift he received from the world No. 1.

Tennis players do throw towels and wristbands towards their supporters, and Andy Murray recently gave a shirt to a fan who had been encouraging him, but giving a racquet with which you win a tournament is definitely extra special.

Cricketers play at a huge distance from the crowd, so it’s tough to identify someone who is encouraging you in the throng. Cricketers do, however, give their bats and other equipment for raising funds for their favourite charities.   -  Getty Images

 

Do cricketers do that? For starters, they play at a huge distance from the crowd, so it’s tough to identify someone who is encouraging you in the throng. Cricketers do, however, give their bats and other equipment for raising funds for their favourite charities. The cricket memorabilia business is huge and there are some collectors like Shyam Bhatia, Rohan Pate and Boria Mazumdar, to name three who I know, who have opened up magnificent museums where they display and store the items they have collected from the players over the years. These museums are the way they pay tribute to the players who have brought glory to the game, and it’s a delight to see how aesthetically, beautifully and lovingly these items are displayed. Make no mistake, it’s hard work getting hold of these items and they don’t fall into their laps. It’s recognising the collectors’ sheer love of the game that makes players part with items that hold special memories and are associated with winning moments and which are close to their hearts and very difficult to part with. It’s also the knowledge that these are going to be safely stored and not exchanged for financial gains.

READ | WTC final: Gavaskar questions lack of full covering on England grounds after day one wash-out

It’s heartening to know the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is also planning to have a museum that will not only be a walk down memory lane for Indian cricket fans, but will also act as a great incentive to a budding youngster to work hard so that one day in the future one of his items could adorn the museum.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :