I Love Winners

By Jeff George

Forget the underdog.

If there is a game on TV and I’m not a fan of either team playing, I’m pulling for the team that is supposed to win. A number one versus a number four in the playoffs – let’s hear it for number one.

It’s easy to be an underdog. You’re not supposed to win, so there’s nothing to lose. The only one who thinks you should win is yourself. There’s no outside pressure.

Playing a good game is easy.

What about the higher seed? The majority of the fans watching the game, as well as the Vegas odds makers and ESPN analysts, expect them to win. If they lose, it’s a disappointment, if they win, it’s no big deal. They were supposed to.

They have just won a bunch of games in a row and the team they’re playing has marked this date on the calendar as a chance to take down the giant. The higher seed’s motivation has to come solely from within. Playing another good game, continuing to win, is hard.

And I’m rooting for the winner. I’m rooting for Roger Federer, who yesterday advanced to the semi-finals of the ’06 Australian Open, his seventh straight Grand Slam semi-final.

Yesterday’s win was Federer’s fiftieth straight win on a hard court, dating back to last year’s Australian Open.

Federer is a winner.

In the third set of his quarterfinal match against Nikolay Davydenko, Federer survived six set points, including three straight in the tiebreaker, to win the set 6-6. Federer was not playing his best tennis, but winners don’t let petty details get in the way of winning.

For most of the match Federer and Davydenko had won the same amount of points, though if you looked at the scoreboard you would see that Federer was ahead in the match.

Like a winner should, Federer won the points that mattered. Federer played horrendous tennis (for Federer) in the second set.

He admitted afterwards that he allowed Davydenko to change his game and that he was trying to end points too fast.

Though, like a winner, Federer regrouped at the break and came back to play the third set at his normal pace. He didn’t wait until the match was over to evaluate how he was playing and make the necessary changes; he did it in the middle of the match.

What may be most impressive about Federer’s game is that he rarely, if ever, gets fazed. Early in his career, Federer would let bad shots or bad games get into his head. He would grow louder and louder as the match went on and he was never shy about smashing his racket.

The new Federer is different.

A bad shot (and there were many in yesterday’s match) may be followed by a short shout, but is usually followed by a good shot.

His head is as steel-tight as his glare is steely. Positive reinforcement dominates bad shots and heckling. That is what makes a winner.

I root for winners and I am pulling for Federer to take the Australian Open.

I don’t care that he has won his last 24 matches or his last five finals appearances, or that he has been ranked number one in the world for over 100 straight weeks.

But, wouldn’t you like to see someone new? How cool would that be?

No, I wouldn’t like to see someone new.

How cool is it that one man can withstand an onslaught of the best tennis players in the world, tournament after tournament and remain on top of them all for 100 straight weeks?

The only thing cooler will be if he can continue his streak and beat Jimmy Connors’s 160-week record. Adieu.

Josh George is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]