Pete Bodo shared a list of his favorite things in 2011. He had these words about DelPo:
While I don’t especially want to be counted among those who think it’s a sign of human progress when grown men cry, I was touched when del Potro turned on the floodgates during the Argentina’s doomed Davis Cup effort in the final v. Spain. It’s nice to have the gentle giant of Tandil amongst us again. Among other things, he shows that you can be an emotional guy without leaping around like a scalded cat, throwing your fist in the other guy’s face, and/or screaming at the player guest box.
Nicely put, Pete! I’ve felt uneasy with some of the commentary following DelPo’s losses at Davis Cup. Tignor remarked that DelPo has a “soft side” that perhaps renders him incapable of defeating the top players. Wertheim implies the same about DelPo’s mental side, although he prefaces his comments with the caveat that he’s unsure of what to think about DelPo. I suspect the tears may have led them to question DelPo’s mental strength—which is strange, because DelPo has always been prone to tears, even when he was praised by journalists for being mentally strong. In an old interview, he says that he cries when he’s happy and when he’s sad, and that it’s no big deal. He’s just emotional.
While I don’t want to see DelPo become the spokesman for male crying, I think his tears can also be interpreted as a sign of ambition. If I had to choose between an apathetic DelPo and a tearful DelPo, I’d opt for the latter. Mind, I don’t want to see repeated instances of an athlete crying, and to that end DelPo needs to work on his fitness, serve and transition game, if he wants to keep improving—I’m simply saying tears might not be as taboo a reaction to defeat. If you’re going to lose, leave it all out there and lose big.
As a reminder that DelPo’s tears are nothing new, here are other noteworthy instances in which DelPo cried:
1. Following his retirement in the match against Murray at the 2008 Rome Masters.
2. After his QF loss to Muzz at the 2008 US Open. He started to cry so heavily that his agent stopped the interview and ushered him out of the press room:
3. Following his loss to Fed at the 2009 French Open. That was a 5-set match in which DelPo held a 2 sets to 1 lead before fading away.
4. Finally, happy tears! At the 2009 US Open, after he defeated Fed in another 5-set marathon. That’s a 180° turnaround from his 2008 US Open tears and his 2009 RG tears.
5. More happy tears after claiming victory from Djokovic in Serbia, in Sept. 2011.
So the road to triumph can be marked with tears. It’s not automatically a sign of mental weakness. Plus, DelPo represents Argentina. Sadly, it’s almost a working requirement for an Argentine to shed tears at Davis Cup (Pico. Nalby. Acasuso. Nalby. Nalby again. The list goes on). Sidebar: I implore the tennis gods to let Argentina win next year.
So go on, DelPo. Shed those tears. Even the greatest have been known to cry:**
To loosely paraphrase a great player (he’s Scottish when he cries), “Cry like Federer, while learning to play like Federer, and then maybe you can beat Federer in a Grand Slam final.”
I think that has a nice ring to it. Let the self-actualization begin!
** In an attempt to break the taboos on grown men crying in tennis, here is a partial list of players who have recently cried in public, many of whom went on to accomplish great things on the tour. Please feel free to contribute with more instances not listed here!
- Djokovic after losing at the 2008 Olympics.
- Djokovic after losing the 4th and deciding rubber to Argentina at the 2011 DC SF.
- Rafa after losing the 2007 Wimbledon final.
- Rafa after winning the 2010 Monte Carlo final, after 10 title-less months.
- Rafa after winning the 2010 Roland Garros final, defeating Soderling.
- Rafa as he served for and won the 2010 US Open championship over Djokovic. His USO win completed his career Grand Slam at the age of 24.
- Rafa as he served for his 6th Roland Garros title in 2011. I may not be able to find photo evidence, but I saw it with my own eyes, Rafa!
- Murray after losing the 2010 Oz Open final. “I can cry like Roger, it’s just a shame I can’t play like him,” he said.
- Murray after winning the DC tie for Great Britain (d. Luxembourg) in July (I found this incident a bit odd. But in the spirit of things, I say “Whatever feels good, Muzz!”)
- Nalby after winning the opening rubber for Argentina against Romania in March 2011. He played through a hernia. He won. He cried. “I couldn’t quit in Davis Cup, especially not in front of my home crowd,” he said.
- Michael Llodra after losing the deciding rubber for France in the 2010 final.
- Julien Benneteau after losing the Winston Salem final to John Isner. Although the Winston Salem final is not as grand a stage as a DC or GS final, this match was Benneteau’s shot at his first ATP title. It was plainly evident how much the opportunity had meant to him, when he cried into his towel after defeat.
- Most famously, Fed after losing the 2009 Oz Open final. “God, it’s killing me,” he said.
All fantastic players who have cried after losing big matches. Taboo? There’s no taboo.