A reprieve

Wimbledon ensures that reporters conceal their loyalty towards a player
To be a Rafael Nadal fan is to be an underdog. It feels unreasonable, for Nadal is an 18-time Grand Slam champion and a serial winner. But in a universe full of Roger Federer supporters, I have often felt like a mere speck. The American writer David Foster Wallace didn’t help matters, as his famous 2006 essay, published in The New York Times , titled ‘Roger Federer as Religious Experience’, made it unfashionable to root for Nadal. “A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read,” Mark Twain once said. Wallace’s classic was something I didn’t go anywhere near. Wimbledon 2019, though, changed certain things. Federer and Nadal were drawn to meet in the semifinals for what could potentially be their first on grass since that iconic clash in 2008. Once the draw held good, friends and family told me to feel “blessed” and “privileged” that I could watch it live. To be sure, I was. But as a reporter deputed to cover it, I had to shed the mask of a fan. In fact, 13 of the duo’s 40 meetings have come after I turned a journalist and I have had to write about many of them dispassionately. But not once before was I pressured to look the part even as the spectacle was unfolding. Wimbledon, which prizes its etiquette more than any other sporting event, thankfully had a way of settling such nerves. “No cheering or clapping from the press box please,” a security officer never tired of telling us. Appreciating a well-executed stroke, be it by any player, shouldn’t ideally cast aspersions on your professional integrity. But Wimbledon’s way of ensuring fairness is by shutting down even a modicum of applause from the media. So much so that the press was forced to watch even the rise of the irresistible 15-year-old American Cori Gauff in relative silence. That probably helped me during the Federer-Nadal match. The Spaniard lost a manic first set, but like him, I was engrossed in finding answers, with an unforgiving deadline also looming. The ending was climatic, but it was important to stay detached and worry only about fitting all the important details into the copy. It was not until I sat in the Nadal press conference that the result truly sunk in. The irrational sense of loyalty, however, never made a reappearance and I can only thank Wimbledon for it.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/a-reprieve/article28567390.ece

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