Is there anything worse than winning a match and listening to your opponent make excuses? At this point I think I’ve heard them all.
I only got two hours of sleep last night.
I haven’t played in three weeks.
I’m just getting over the stomach flu.
It’s been such a crazy week. I just couldn’t get my head in the game.
I’m still breaking in these sneakers.
I always have a hard time with soft hitters like you.
This is the first time my partner and I have played together.
This isn’t my usual racquet.
I’m still jet-lagged from my trip to Bali. (This one manages to offend on multiple levels.)
Excuses all come from the same place, the desire to protect one’s ego. And truth be told, I’ve been guilty of it at times myself. It can be hard to allow our victorious opponents to enjoy their win. We want to appear gracious by saying “good match,” and then subtly undermine the legitimacy of the win. We want them to know that if they had to face our “real game,” the outcome would have been very different.
The excuses we offer may very well be true. There can be crazy weeks. New sneakers can be distracting. But there isn’t a player around who isn’t dealing with something–a family crisis, nagging injuries, an unfamiliar racquet, or just an “off” day.
This is why I love John Isner’s words after losing to Kevin Anderson in their marathon semi-final match:
I competed hard and that’s what it comes down to. That’s what I have to be proud of. It stinks to lose but I gave it everything I had out there and I just lost…to someone who was just a little bit better in the end.
That’s how you do it. Simple, honest, and respectful. I don’t enjoy watching Isner play, but what a fundamentally decent person he seems to be. He sets a fine example of how to lose with class. I’m going to try to be a more consistently gracious loser going forward–although honestly, I’d prefer to get more practice with gracious winning!
Do post-match excuses irk you? Do any particularly creative ones stand out in your mind?
My serving total: 1,438