When Grown Men Cry

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:**

Photo: Scott Barbour (Getty Images)

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.


About mariposaxprs

I play favorites with Juan Martin Del Potro, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, Gilles Simon and the long line of mercurial talent that drives me to despair in front of the screen at odd hours during the week.
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26 Responses to When Grown Men Cry

  1. Hi there, yeah this article is in fact good and I have learned lot of things from
    it on the topic of blogging. thanks.

  2. Pingback: Two Cheers for Tandil: Pico Joins DelPo in the Top 10! | mariposaxprs

  3. queridorafa says:

    Thank you for the crying round-up! It’s kind of amazing, really. And you are definitely not mistaken–Rafa absolutely was tearing up serving for the French this year. (and for the US Open in 2010–I think he even writes that in his book!) Thanks also for the DelPo video–although I kind of want to invent a time machine, travel back, and give him a big hug. 😦 The picture of Nalby crying will forever hold a special place in my heart…

    • You’re right, Rafa wrote about crying during match point in the US Open Final 2010. You can see him wiping his eyes with his wrist before he serves, and after he wins, he collapses and sobs.

      • mariposaxprs says:

        I’ll have to rewatch that moment. It’s so emotional when you can see him visibly tear up during the match, as he’s serving for it or he’s up 3 championship points. It’s like the tiniest crack in his armor when he’s competing on the tennis court, and you see his emotions.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Haha, I feel a bit cruel now for searching for all the recent instances when tennis players have cried in public. I will have to make up for that by doing something nice!

      D’oh! I completely left out Rafa crying at the USO in 2010. That was the momentous Career Grand Slam moment too—I’ll add that to the list right away. The DelPo video from 2008 tugs at the heartstrings—John McEnroe, during the 2009 USO final, said he was surprised that the normally zombie-like DelPo cried so hard after losing in the QF. Nalby crying at DC is just 😦 Nalby cried this year too at the opening ceremony. I implore the tennis gods! Let him win and ride off into the sunset next year.

  4. I had no idea delpo cried in NY in 2008. Good info! Great post!

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Thank you! That USO loss in 2008 came right after he’d had the summer streak where he won his first four titles. It’s heartwarming to see where he ended up a year after that!

  5. Iram says:

    danggit…I’ve been introduced to your blog too late. 🙂 Why haven’t I been following you all this time?! (Not trying to kiss up- but that was another great read) Thanks, I enjoyed ur post.

    There is no taboo when men cry. They are just as human as women are. Different people express themselves in different ways. I’m glad that some of our most beloved ATP Pros can shed a tear once in a while to show that they are happy/sad. I really hope Delpo can win a slam in 2012. He’s brilliant- and a very humble person.

    (Out of curiosity are you from Argentina? You seem to like their players in particular)

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Thank you so much, Iram! You’re too kind. I turn to your site for updates on Spain’s Davis Cup happenings!

      I think watching tennis has showed that it’s perfectly fine for male athletes to cry. You’re right, it’s no different whether it’s a female or a male crying from disappointment or happiness. I’m hoping DelPo can cement his comeback next year too, in a big way!

      I’m actually not from Argentina (although you’re the 2nd person to ask me that question in the past month! Lol, I guess I’ve grown to like the Argentine players through my support of them during Davis Cup :)) Although I also support the Spanish team and many other players too! Are you by any chance from Spain?

  6. Andy says:

    May I know when/where the picture of Pico crying is from?

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Sure, the photo of Pico is from the 2009 Davis Cup, when the Czech Republic defeated Argentina. Pico lost the 5th deciding match to Radek Stepanek, so it was a big disappointment for him.

      • Andy says:

        I’m getting a bit confused because the bench they are sitting on has ‘Madrid’ on it, so I thought maybe it is from the DC Final this year, but I was not aware Pico cried after losing to Rafa.
        By the way, I enjoy reading your blog. Just discovered it.

        • mariposaxprs says:

          Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you liked the post 🙂

          I’m not sure why the bench had the “Madrid” stamped on it either. The Czech-Argentina tie took place in the Czech Republic, so maybe it was a sponsor issue? The photo wasn’t from this year’s DC final, b/c the photo has been around for a couple of years now. Also, I’m not aware either that Pico cried after losing to Rafa. May I ask, are you a Pico fan?

  7. Ok, to add to the list

    1 Novak Djokovic cried after losing the Davis Cup rubber against Del Po (as I’m sure you remember)
    2 Andy Murray cried after he lost the 2010 AO final. “I can cry like Roger, it’s just a shame I can’t play like him.”

  8. ariennalee says:

    “his tears can also be interpreted as a sign of ambition”

    Yes! Tears can mean just about anything. Ditto laughter, yelling, smiling…etc. I get why journalists react negatively to tears–because they’re so often tears of shame which not only embarrass us, the viewers (we’re forced to relate and acknowledge those places in ourselves), they tend to imply an unhealthy, or unproductive (probably more important in sports), level of narcissism. However, that said, shaming a person who is ashamed is never all that helpful. Furthermore, shame is the first recognition of potential… so it’s not ONLY shameful. (As your example illustrates, DelPo seems to be starting to believe in himself again.)

    I liked what Bodo had to say, excepting only this line “While I don’t especially want to be counted among those who think it’s a sign of human progress when grown men cry.” For some reason this line makes me think that Bodo would be “ashamed” to count himself among those who think it’s okay for “grown men” to cry. Why is crying okay for girls, women and boys… but not for men? Argh. Of course we want to learn to regulate our emotions as we age… tantrums are childish… but if a good racquet-smash is okay every once in a while, why not tears? Besides, I can’t recall ever seeing DelPo unable to continue play because he was so caught up in his tears.

    Clearly, I’m invested in this topic! Okay, onto lighter matters… “he’s Scottish when he cries” LOL. I LOVE that line! Really interesting post overall.

    • mariposaxprs says:

      Thank you! Your reply is so well-put! I thought Bodo’s first words were a bit out-of-place too. It’s like he’s saying, “Normally, I’d leave the crying to girls.” I dislike it when people criticize female tennis players who cry, by dismissing it as a symptom of their being female.

      I can’t find the link to DelPo’s old interview, but he was once asked why he cried and he pretty much laughs off the question, saying “I’m a silly goose, I cry when I win or lose, happy or sad, no pasa nada.” It’s def difficult to watch players cry, but once you understand that’s just a part of the personality, it’s not as shameful to watch, like you said! It’s maybe disappointing, but not shameful or a mark on their character. I remember reading about Petkovic, who cried after losing to Radwanska in a big final—she cried, but 10 minutes later she was on her feet doing a dance. I thought that was pretty cool (it emphasizes that tears aren’t always something that’s permanently damaging).

      I also wonder how much of it is cultural too. I don’t watch a lot of NFL/NBA/MLB so I don’t know anything, but I have a hunch that crying might not be as well-tolerated there. Then again, maybe that’s just the general atmosphere in team sports, as opposed to individual sports.

      • ariennalee says:

        I think you’re right on both counts, the ‘culture of crying’ is different in team sports. When you’re on a team you’ve got people around you to help you carry the emotional experience… this can amplify some feelings but help mitigate others. There’s also a big cultural difference in so far as how much crying is accepted in general. Americans are generally less comfortable with tears from men (under certain circumstances) than are European/South American men. For the most part, I think that’s our (including Bodo’s) loss.

        When Bodo said “leaping around like a scalded cat” I couldn’t help but think about the World Cup and all the drama-tears shed there. My American roots show through big-time when I get impatient with the dramatic acting-out of injuries and tearful outrage/dismay from soccer/football players (although, I love the sport & think they’re just as “tough” as any other athletes out there).

        When I used to see Dinara cry, I’d want to run out there and take her off the court. (And get her away from that coach!) She looked like she needed shelter from the storm, so to speak. But when DelPo cries after a loss (or Rafa, or Fed) I tend to think that they are expressing wounded pride or pain… and aside from ‘feeling their pain,’ I’m not troubled… the tears will anneal into firm, fighting spirit! I didn’t see that Petko moment, but wish I had. Might help me warm to her… not that my feelings are exactly chilly, but perhaps I’m not as much of a dancer 🙂

        • mariposaxprs says:

          I’m right there with you regarding Petko! It almost begins to irritate me when people keep repeating that she’s a “breath of fresh air” and “so good for the sport”—I don’t dislike her, but I’m not quite there in terms of seeing her as the best personality for the sport. It was the 2011 China Open when she cried, but then she danced w/Radwanska. Here’s the dancing part: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEkkA6e60jc (admittedly big of her to do this at the trophy ceremony).

          I agree with what you said, regarding the differences between crying among South American/European men and American men. If Roddick cried after a big DC match, I feel like U.S. media coverage would have singled him out and it could have been quite brutal. There really is that nuance in crying–if it’s b/c of wounded pride, that’s not *as* troubling, whereas with Dinara, it felt like something a little bit more painful (possibly b/c of her coach—he was *intense*). I wish Dinara could recover to come back and play again.

          • Arienna Lee says:

            Thanks for the link! That was a cute moment.

            I’m not sure what to wish for Dinara. Listening to her talk (and seeing her bake brownies) makes me think that she’s more hungry for basic love and acceptance than for trophies. Part of me wants to see her to come back and be able to play at the top of her game– without so much self-flagellation. (And with a new coaching dynamic) But another part of me would love to hear that she’s opened a bakery and is making folks in Russia(and herself!) happy with confections of all kinds. 😉

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