The hug – 2009’s No. 1 tennis moment
12/10/09 3:49 PM | Cheryl Murray
The hug – 2009’s No. 1 tennis moment Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer supply more amazing memories...
For a bit of time on a January night in Melbourne, the crowd at Rod Laver Arena melted away. The officials on the award platform and even Rod Laver himself were momentarily invisible. The world came down to two men having a moment – probably THE tennis moment of the decade.
Like most great moments, this one was born of spontaneity. It was one man recognizing that somebody else’s needs had to come before his own, of realizing that sometimes celebration must be delayed and consolation given instead.
So it was at the awards ceremony of the Australian Open. Rafael Nadal had just beaten Roger Federer in yet another heartbreaking five-set final – and heartbreaking it was. Federer stood poised to make his consolation speech, and though he surely would have wished it otherwise, he broke down into uncontrollable sobs.
The announcer, who displayed all of the delicacy of a sumo wrestler, warbled something into the microphone about waiting for Federer to "settle down" and he called Rafael Nadal to the stage instead. This is simply not done – the champion never speaks before the runner-up at a trophy ceremony. But Nadal, who clearly recognized that if the moment were going to be saved, he’d have to do it, jogged up onto the raised platform.
With the folks from Tennis Australia looking on helplessly, Nadal received the trophy from Laver, raised it once, and then seemed to make a decision. He clearly had not planned any of this – who could have? But he knew what needed to be done and with an instinct born of inherent decency, he tucked the trophy under his arm, ignored the Tennis Australia guys, and walked over to comfort his opponent.
It was a simple thing, relatively speaking. A quick arm slung around the neck, heads together for a brief moment and few words of encouragement. Ten seconds at most. But it was ten seconds that transcended sport and rivalries and important Grand Slam titles. It created this indelible moment of beauty between the sweaty and the tear-stained, where all the wrong things are suddenly perfect and exactly right.