Tennis' bizarre convention of the losing speech
A back injury derailed Rafael Nadal's Australian Open hopes.
January 28th, 2014
12:32 PM ET

Tennis' bizarre convention of the losing speech

By Will Edmonds

Almost five years to the day after reducing then world No. 1 Roger Federer to tears after capturing his first, and to-date only Australian Open, Rafael Nadal shed a few of his own when the Spaniard stood up to give a speech after losing the Australian Open final to Stanislas Wawrinka.

Surely this is one of the strangest conventions in all of sports?

Minutes after falling agonizingly short of achieving a goal they have dedicated their lives to, tennis players are expected to show sportsmanship, humility, composure, gratitude and perspective, often in a second or third language, in front of a crowd of thousands and a television audience of millions.

You would never expect the losing team's captain in the Champions League final to take the stand and address the crowd and you might place yourself in serious danger if you tried to force a microphone into the hand of a man who hasjust lost a heavyweight boxing bout.

Is tennis just more sophisticated; more traditional; more civilized?

Who knows, but what is clear is these tearful toasts are often being remembered long after the results have been wiped from the public’s memory.

Aside from having to congratulate the victor, thank the tournament organizers, the sponsors, umpires, ball boys and of course, the fans, tennis players are increasingly using this platform to express emotion and connect with their fans.

Back in the 1980s American John McEnroe broke protocol by walking off the court to a cacophony of boos during Ivan Lendl's victory speech at the French Open.

Four years later on the same court, Frenchman Henri Leconte was similarly booed when he tried to break down the technicalities of why he lost to Sweden's Mats Wilander in the final.

These days, tears are standard protocol, and never more so than in the aforementioned 2009 Australian Open final when Federer famously broke down after losing to Nadal, in a manner the likes of which the tennis world hadn't seen since Jana Novotna in the 1990s. Novotna famously cried on the Duchess of Kent's shoulder after losing a Wimbledon final to Steffi Graf.

Federer would soon be back on the winner’s podium, and over the following months would get the opportunity to hear some of the most memorable runner-up speeches.

After the 2009 French Open final, having lost to Federer in straight sets, Robin Soderling joked: "Nobody beats Robin Soderling 13 times in a row."

Not so jovially, a few weeks later, Andy Roddick called out "You've won five times!" in response to Federer's assertion that he knew how Andy was feeling after his excruciatingly close five-set loss in the Wimbledon final.

In 2010, perhaps the humblest of speeches was uttered by a man not known at the time for his humility, when Andy Murray proclaimed: "I can cry like Roger. It's just a shame I can't play like him."

It was a statement which helped win the Scot a raft of new fans.

Professional tennis is competing with a multitude of sports for television revenue, sponsorship and ticket sales, and these speeches - often revealing players' humanity when their defences are down – arguably helps fans connect to the game's stars and just as importantly they make headlines. The media can't get enough of them.

Unlike in team sports, where support for clubs is often passed down in the family and developed in communities, maintaining and growing a fan base in an individual sport such as tennis is dependent on establishing personal connections between the players and supporters.

Seeing these players shed a few tears or a little humility helps show that these guys are people - just like you and me.

So, as a tradition, it is bizarre and as a requisite, it's brutal, but for the growth of the game, it is crucial.

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Roger Federer's longevity his greatest achievement?
Roger Federer has looked impressive at the Australian Open, but he had no answer to Rafael Nadal's dominance.
January 24th, 2014
12:20 PM ET

Roger Federer's longevity his greatest achievement?

In defeat there was honor and hope, as well as another record.

Roger Federer may have finished shy of adding to his record 17 grand slam titles, falling to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open semifinals in all too familiar fashion, but the 32-year-old tennis great did add to his ever-increasing list of achievements by making his record-breaking 57th consecutive appearance at a grand slam.

While this may not the most glamorous milestone in the history books, in many respects it is one of the most important. FULL POST

'Baby Fed'
January 15th, 2014
03:02 PM ET

Five future tennis stars to watch

After nearly a decade without any real change at the top of men’s tennis, and not one player in the top 10 under the age of 25, could 2014 be the year the next generation of stars make their presence felt?

As the first grand slam of the season kicks off in Australia, here are five potential champions of the future to keep your eye on. FULL POST

Davis Cup: Can it become the World Cup of tennis?
Ecuador celebrates its unlikely Davis Cup victory over Great Britain in July 2000.
November 15th, 2013
05:41 PM ET

Davis Cup: Can it become the World Cup of tennis?

Keep off the Grass!

If those entering The All England Club’s hallowed grounds should know one rule, it’s that. Even after the most epic of victories, a football-style pitch invasion on the pristinely groomed Wimbledon lawns would never, and could never happen, under any circumstances.

With one exception.

In July 2000, Ecuador's Davis Cup team pulled off an unlikely victory against a heavily favored British lineup on their home court. A decidedly partisan crowd was aghast as the South American players and their extensive entourage broke with tradition and stormed the court in pure jubilee. FULL POST

Can Roger Federer roar back in 2014?
Despite a frustrating 2013, Pat Cash says Roger Federer can bounce back next season. (Getty Images)
November 12th, 2013
05:41 PM ET

Can Roger Federer roar back in 2014?

Roger Federer may have slipped to No. 6 in the world rankings but he still has a lot of life left in him.

The 17-time grand slam champion hasn't been as consistent as we have seen him in the past, while the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have caught up with the Swiss star and moved ahead.

But on his day, and if he has a bit of luck in the draw, the 32-year-old Federer has got a great chance of reaching another grand slam final. FULL POST

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November 4th, 2013
12:22 PM ET

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Nine reasons the ATP World Tour Finals is the best tournament of the year
Six-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic walked away with the title in 2012. (Getty Images)
November 4th, 2013
11:21 AM ET

Nine reasons the ATP World Tour Finals is the best tournament of the year

While the Australian Open embodies the spirit of a brand new season, Roland Garros has the charm of Paris in the springtime, Wimbledon has all the history and tradition, and the U.S. Open has the rowdy New York crowd ...  for me, as a tennis fan, nothing compares to the ATP World Tour Finals.

Here are nine reasons why the season-ending showpiece at London's O2 Arena is unrivalled by any other event on the tennis calendar: FULL POST

October 17th, 2013
01:49 PM ET

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Equal work for equal pay?
Serena Williams' U.S. Open final win attracted a higher TV audience than the men's showpiece match. (Getty Images)
September 30th, 2013
04:16 PM ET

Equal work for equal pay?

Usually the practice of equal work predates the debate for equal pay. In tennis, the practice of equal pay pre-dated the debate for equal work.

In the 40 years since Billie-Jean King’s historic victory over Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes,” which lit the fuse for the global expansion of women’s tennis, the game has become the biggest women’s sport on the planet, with the stars of the game known on a first name basis the world over.

Eventually, the financial rewards slowly followed suit, culminating in 2007 when Wimbledon become the last of the four grand slam events to award equal prize money to both the men and women.

While this would seem like a non-controversial sign of gender equality and progress, opposition to equal prize money at the grand slams is not isolated to the misogynistic fringe of the tennis community. Their argument is simple; men play best-of-five sets whereas the women just best-of-three. FULL POST

Are Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic boring?
Rafael Nadal won his second U.S. Open title on Monday, but is his style of play boring?
September 11th, 2013
03:51 PM ET

Are Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic boring?

There’s an argument that this generation of men's tennis is boring and I think it’s a valid one.

It’s not boring to see two great players like Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic compete in a final.

What is getting mundane is watching the same tactic in every single match of every single grand slam for the last five or six years.

Nowadays they all settle down and say "OK, this is going to be two hours of baseline rallies." The guy who outlasts the other one wins. It’s taken a lot of the skill out of tennis. FULL POST

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