12/15/2010 2:00:00 PM
“The taste of defeat has a richness of experience all its own.”
Soy un perdedor.
I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me?
We say it every time an unbelievable match ends. “It’s a shame someone had to lose.” We tear up and say, as said loser bawls uncontrollably into a towel, that they have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, that they left everything out there on that court and we’ll remember them for everything they gave us. And yet, for all the accolades being handed out at the end of 2010, who’s bothering to pop champagne corks for these unsung VIPs?
This week, we are.
This week we celebrate Andy Murray, who stood by devastated as Roger Federer hoisted his 16th major trophy Down Under. This after scorching Rafael Nadal in a semifinal that I was thisclose to putting on my Top 5 list despite the fact that it was aborted halfway through. With championship point come and gone, all Muzz could muster through the tears was “I can cry like Roger, it's just a shame I can't play like him." The shame would be letting his performance in the final overshadow what he did to get there.
This week we celebrate Sam Stosur, another one who came agonizingly close to winning her first major at the French Open, only to find herself standing there holding the runner up dish with a look of absolute shellshock on her face. We know what happened, but while we’re all beaming with the memory of Schiavo making snow angels in the dirt, we (and Sam) simply can’t forget the spectacular achievements that landed her at the podium in the first place, knocking out Henin (!), Serena (!!) and anyone who ever said she couldn’t do it.
This week we celebrate Vera Zvonareva, who had no idea the heights she’d reach in 2010 when she sat sobbing next to compatriot and homegirl Elena Vesnina at Wimbledon. She’d just received a public flogging at the hands of Serena Williams in the singles final and admirably (alright, shockingly) held it together. But as she watched her and her partner’s lead dissolve in the dubs final, you just wanted to reach through the TV and give her the bear hug she so completely deserved and tell her, hey, you kicked ass. She may not have been in a place to hear it then. Hopefully she is today.
Vera reached great heights in 2010
This week we celebrate Michael Llodra, who holds the distinction of breaking hearts not once but twice, first in his loss to Robin Soderling in Paris (which absolutely made our year-end Top 5), and then in his loss to Viktor Troicki in the Davis Cup final. The image of him sobbing inconsolably in Belgrade nearly eclipsed that of the Serb squad celebrating with the trophy - and they were bald. We felt Michael’s pain like it was our pain. And let’s be honest, it was. But we also felt the heart he poured into those performances, and for that we can only thank him.
This week we celebrate the most lovable loser of 2010, Nicolas Mahut. Before Wimbledon, he was simply a grass court specialist with a face like a duck and hair like a Chia pet. But after summoning the physical and emotional strength to serve to stay in a match 55 straight times, he became something much more. Sure, John Isner got to throw out the pitches, deliver Letterman’s Top Ten List and sleep nightmare-free, it’s Nicolas Mahut who taught us how to fight like a champ.
Lastly, we celebrate Elena Dementieva, who left the court sobbing after being forced to retire in the French Open semis, the first time she retired in 46 major appearances. There were those who interpreted her tears as utter frustration at yet another blown opportunity. But she had a secret. This was her final year on tour. She made it official at the YEC, retiring as the almost unanimously crowned Best Player To Have Never Won a Slam, making her arguably the biggest loser in Open Era history. And yet. Despite what she failed to accomplish, what she gave of herself in her 13 years on Tour was, simply, bigger. If you don’t believe me, count the tears shed as a result of her hanging up her racquet. From her colleagues, from the people in the stands and from those watching at home.
Losing sucks. Of course it does. But when you lose giving your heart and soul right on down to the marrow in your bones, the only shame is in not paying tribute.
To these guys I say, someday I hope to be as big a loser as you.
And hey, tomorrow is another day.
Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.