Rafael Nadal won his 13th Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open over Novak Djokovic last Monday and is now just four Grand Slams behind Roger Federer and catching up fast. While the speed and power of the game was astounding, it was equaled by something very special.
I have never seen a level of sportsmanship and conduct that surpasses the class shown by these two incredible athletes. No garbage talk, no stalling, no gamesmanship ... just good new-fashioned power tennis.
Federer has always practiced the highest level of court conduct in his illustrious career, and it seems that as the torch is passed, the game remains in good hands. Djokovic, in particular, demonstrated his high regard for his opponent, even giving applause several times to Rafa's great shot-making.
I think it's behavior like this, which is so rarely seen by any top athlete in any sport (and seems to be missing in the women's game), that deserves our admiration and applause.
Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.