Column: Sportsmen: can they be robotic but revered?

By Majesh Abraham

As Roger Federer put the finishing touches on another dominant run at the U.S. Open, it was fitting that a man also coming off a dominant performance at a major championship, Tiger Woods, was there to watch him.

Woods and Federer have clearly established their dominance in their respective sports over the years.

Tiger has twelve majors and is undefeated in his last five tournaments, which include two majors. Federer now owns nine grand slams and has won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open three years in a row.

So it’s only natural that these two superstars would become friends. Federer said about their new friendship, “That’s something I haven’t felt before: A guy who knows how it feels to be invincible and when you just have the feeling that there’s nothing going wrong anymore.”

Invincibility is not the only thing that they have in common, they are both quiet superstars. Both are clinical and calculated, rarely show emotion, and almost robotic in their play.

Competition is laid by the wayside, and it is only surprising when they lose. While it’s exciting to see them take aim at the record books, it causes a distinct lack of excitement in their respective sports.

Even when the PGA Championship was tied going into Sunday, did anybody seriously think Luke Donald would stand a chance against Tiger?

Even with the rejuvenated Andy Roddick facing Federer in the final, with all-time great Jimmy Connors as his coach, it was a foregone conclusion that Federer would win the match.

Ironically, Federer won the tournament that would also serve as the last stage for Andre Agassi. Agassi was a champion for the ages, not just for his personality, but for the intrigue he brought to the game.

When Agassi began his career, he was everything tennis was not: brash. He sported colorful outfits and a flowing head of hair. He called himself a rebel, instantly winning him fans and endorsement deals (The Canon Rebel commercials are classic).

When is the last time you’ve heard of an athlete refusing to play a major sporting event in his sport?

Agassi refused to play at Wimbledon (he also didn’t play the Australian Open for the first eight years of his career), the most prestigious tennis championship, just because he didn’t like the all-white dress code.

Ironically, the second time he actually played at Wimbledon, he won his first Grand Slam victory.

Agassi would go onto win eight Grand Slams, becoming only the fifth player ever to complete the career Grand Slam, and the first male ever to win all four Grand Slams on four different surfaces.

Another endearing facet of Agassi was that he was able to redefine himself as he matured. In 1997, he suffered a wrist injury and dropped all the way to 141st in the player rankings.

Then he underwent rigorous condition training and it has paid huge dividends ever since; most tennis players reach the twilight of their careers before the age of 30.

Agassi was 37 when he retired.

Agassi’s career also featured a great rivalry with Pete Sampras.

Their rivalry started in 1991 at the U.S. Open with Sampras defeating Agassi in the final. After many back and forth battles, it was fitting that Sampras would end his career against his long-time rival in another final at the U.S. Open.

Even after his contemporaries like Sampras had retired, Agassi was able to become the oldest No. 1-ranked male ever at the age of 33 in 2003.

Last year, at the ripe-old age of 36, he had a run for the ages, reaching the U.S. Open final, which he lost to Federer.

This year, with two bulging discs, shifting vertebrae, and a bone spur in his back, it was amazing that he even managed to walk, let alone play at the U.S. Open.

The fact that he won his first two matches, both in five sets, had fans dreaming of another improbable run.

It would not occur, as Agassi lost the next match to Benjamin Becker of the U.S.

Even though Federer was on the verge of making history at the U.S. Open, all anybody could talk about the first two weeks of the tournament was Agassi’s run and upcoming retirement.

The boy who had started out a rebel had become a respected legend.

It shows that even though superhuman talents like Federer and Woods are fun to watch, it is more interesting if the superstar shows his human side.

Majesh Abraham is a junior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]