Once again, professional tennis illustrates
a relevant point for musicians.
Two of the 2011 Australian Open men’s quarterfinals showed us what type of behavior is expected from professionals and what is unacceptable.
The effects of not showing up
The first example comes from the Roger Federer vs. Stanislas Wawrinka quarterfinal match.
Rod Laver Arena seats over 14,000 people, and appeared to be filled to capacity. The commentators spoke of the difficulty of obtaining tickets to major events and of their expense.
But Wawrinka wasn’t “there.” He didn’t “show up” for work!
He may have felt intimidated by playing against Federer. Certainly he could have been fatigued from two previous wins, one of which was a long match. And this match, played in the daytime, meant dealing with different climate conditions. According to the commentators, the balls travel faster in warmer temps.
In the bad behavior department, Wawrinka smashed a racquet, resulting in a code violation for racquet abuse; and he lobbed a ball straight up into the air, earning him one of “those looks” from Federer.
The same two players won Olympic gold in Beijing as doubles partners! What happened?
Commentators spoke at length about what this could mean for Wawrinka’s future.
Rafael Nadal’s match against David Ferrer was anything but what most spectators, and Nadal himself, had hoped for. Nadal injured a hamstring in the first set, which adversely affected his playing for the rest of the match.
Watching Nadal’s obvious disappointment during the changeovers was so sad. He cried, looking completely dejected. His dream of holding four majors in a row had suddenly disappeared. I didn’t want match point to come.
Rafa’s always professional demeanor
The example Nadal set by finishing the match was something aspiring professionals should take note of. He was in pain, but never considered withdrawing.* It was obvious, with Ferrer playing his best game and slamming away relentlessly, that Nadal had little or no chance of winning. But he was there. He played the best he could under the circumstances.
Part of me started feeling angry that Ferrer was playing so aggressively, knowing that Nadal was injured. A few Tweeters felt the same way. But the commentators said that’s exactly what he should have done, and that they had expected the same of Wawrinka the day before.
Of course the Australian Open is a competition, not a chamber music concert.
To Ferrer’s credit, in his post-match interview he said, “This is one big victory for me, but it’s not like a victory really. He [Nadal] was playing with injury… and I had luck. But I played my game.”
Nadal was given an incredible standing ovation as he left the court. And Ferrer celebrated on court only briefly.
What does this say for us?
Participate fully, even when:
- not everyone is at the same level
- conditions are less than ideal (cold room, sight lines obscured, etc.)
- the piano is sub-par
- feeling tired
- you disagree w/someone’s interpretation
- you have a problem w/someone’s personality
Merely showing up is never acceptable.
Others in the group need our best effort.
The audience has paid to hear us, some having made quite an effort to get to the concert.
Do you watch sports? Do you draw parallels with being a musician? What have you discovered? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!
*I do not advocate playing a musical instrument in pain. However, we would most likely not be injured to this degree during a concert. Our injuries, as I understand them, are usually cumulative.
What I do advocate is finishing the concert with full participation. Whining helps no one.