Melbourne damaged its reputation for sportsmanship when the crowd at Melbourne Park booed a gallant Rafael Nadal during the Australian Open final, writes Angela Pippos.

Where in the “sporting capital of the world” how-to book does it say it’s okay to boo a 13-time grand slam champion?

With an equal measure of horror and shame I listened to the cacophony of boos – loud and strong – ringing out over Melbourne Park last night, as Rafael Nadal sat with his head buried in a towel, on the brink of tears.

I don’t understand the appalling lack of respect towards a player who has built his career on heart and fight. He has entertained us superbly for more than a decade. What a beautiful combination of style, grunt, and power he has brought to the arena. This is a man considered by many to be the greatest tennis player ever.

The “fans” didn’t wait to hear about the back injury he sustained twisting his body slapping a forehand into the net. They’d made up their minds. It was boo time. Fill your lungs up and let rip, the tricky Spaniard was bending the rules again.

He has a history of crying wolf they bleated from the stands and on social media.

He also has a history of serving at speeds greater than my Grandmother.

The only thing unsporting about this whole episode was the crowd leaping to unjustified conclusions. It’s not that difficult spotting a little touch of gamesmanship and it’s also not hard to see when someone is hurt. We are not talking about Andy Murray here, whose face could twist in torment tying his shoelaces – this is Rafa Nadal. No excuses.

The same people were cheering him a set later for playing on in considerable pain. Go figure.

I had the same disappointed reaction when Bernard Tomic was booed in his first round match. His distress was not enough to quell the anger directed at him from the stands. He has history here sure – but we have to treat each case on its merits. This had nothing to do with his commitment and everything to do with his groin. An injury also linked to a bigger hip problem, which requires surgery and three months off.

If the reaction of the crowd provoked such a strong gut response from myself you have to wonder what it does to the players – and especially players such as Tomic, who would be well aware he’s no Pat Rafter in terms of popularity. I understand this is a privileged sport and those who take part are very well looked after – but they are also human.

Surely we can do better than booing injury timeouts. I’m all for atmosphere and drama – but everything has its place. When Tomic headbutts the umpire I’ll be the first to boo – but until that happens let’s all take a step back. Inhale not exhale.

“(The) crowd wants to watch best match possible and I was not able to do that for them. I understand the reaction. They understood later.”

That was the Champion Nadal speaking after the game. Pure class.

Unlike the crowd.


Posted Jan 27, 11:01 pm in . Permanent link

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