Competition is fun. It is fierce. It can be brutal. But it can also be gentlemanly. I have made no secret that I am a huge tennis fan. In fact, I even tried out to be a US Open Ball Person for the 2011 US Open. That experience gave me a whole new appreciation for what the ball people do at all the grand slams, but also the US Open.
I grew up watching Pete Sampras move easily around the court and play with a class and brilliance the tennis world had not seen in a long time. The first incarnation of Andre Agassi was the opposite, but then he became the elder statesman and an amazing philanthropist.
And then Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal came along. Federer is much like Sampras. It makes it look easy. Nadal isn’t like the first Agassi, but he isn’t completely like the second one either. He is his own man. He is unquestionably friendly, respectful, but he plays the game with a reckless abandon.
As an unabashed Nadal fan and enthusiast (just see the photo!), I have often been worried about the longevity of his career. Much like Andy Murray’s hereditary knee issue, Nadal appears to have found his kryptonite … in the form of a left knee problem.
A few weeks ago was the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami and Nadal was scheduled to pay Murray. These two are pretty good friends and whenever they play, they come with a respect for each other, they battle, and then they hug.
But on this night, Nadal couldn’t go. How does Murray find out?
A personal text from Nadal! Murray didn’t find out on the news, or through a text from the tournament director. No. Sitting in the locker room the text came through.
This kind of gentleman, this kind of sportsman is simply not seen enough on the court and not enough in our offices. It’s about taking responsibility and having a respect, a genuine respect for each other. Nadal showed in a simple action to his opponent that he respected him.
If only businesses would operate this way. Imagine how happy workplaces would be.
How can you mimic Nadal?