Of the millions of people who watched the epic Djokovic-Wawrinka match last night, I hope the game’s leading women’s players were amongst them.
Not just because it was an enthralling contest between two unbelievably talented players. But because both men showed something that has been severely lacking in the women’s draw at this year’s Australian Open – class.
The conduct of both men immediately after the match was wonderful to watch.
Instead of the no-look, emotionless handshake at the net that several of the leading women employ at the end of a match, Djokovic and Wawrinka embraced.
They actually looked each other in the eye. One congratulated the winner, the other consoled the loser.
It was a genuine moment of respect and admiration between two men who had just spent four hours trying to hit each other off the court.
As a dejected Djokovic strode off Rod Laver Arena, the crowd remained standing to acknowledge a great champion who had just seen his four-year unbeaten streak consigned to the history books.
Among those who stood to applaud was his opponent. Wawrinka took one last moment to graciously recognise the end of Djokovic’s remarkable winning streak at Melbourne Park.
In the post-match press conference, the defending champion was equally as humble in defeat.
Yes, he rolled out a few tired sporting clichés, but there was nothing tired about his sentiment. He congratulated Wawrinka, acknowledged he was beaten by a better player and promised to learn from the defeat.
Contrast this to the post-match press conferences of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova this week.
Just like Djokovic, both women had been stunned by upset defeats to lower ranked opponents. But unlike the Serb, they showed none of the class and humility that seemed to ooze out of Djokovic’s every pore.
Both girls made sure to mention that injuries had effected their performance and contributed to their defeat. And while both noted that their conquerors had played a great match, neither seemed to mean it.
Both seemed completely disinterested and bored with the simple, 10-minute ordeal that is designed to help them communicate with their fans.
The poor behaviour from the leading women at this Australian Open hasn’t been restricted to after the match, either.
During Monday’s contest between Victoria Azarenka and Sloane Stephens, Azarenka failed to acknowledge Stephens’s apology when the defending champion was struck on the body by a shot from the American.
Stephens did what all players are sometimes forced to do to win a point at the net – she purposely hit the ball straight at her opponent. She politely apologised for any injury caused, yet Azarenka chose to turn her back and storm off.
It’s hard to imagine Djokovic or Wawrinka behaving with such immaturity and petulance.
Thankfully, women like Casey Dellacqua, Eugenie Bouchard and Li Na have been wonderful ambassadors for their sport at this tournament, both in victory and defeat.
These girls, like Djokovic and Wawrinka on Tuesday night, have been custodians of the cliché that winning and losing isn’t everything.
As Djokovic said at his press conference in the early hours of Wednesday morning: “That’s sport”.
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