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New York conversation

Some of the sporting world’s most brilliant performers are inflicted by a worrying malaise that occasionally lays bare mental fragility and tortured souls.

Sporting history is littered with accounts of extraordinary individual outbursts or actions that have prematurely derailed champions and shocked many.

The ability to recognise and fight inner turmoil that is often pigeon-holed behind closed doors in a sheltered and habitually sycophantic environment is often the catalyst for long term success.

Rarely has a sporting feast thrown up so many personality contrasts than the US Open did in New York on what was already an emotionally charged time due to the 10th year anniversary of 9/11. As pressures mounted the concluding days provided a fascinating study of champions and delivered a snap shot of the delicateness and vulnerability from which some suffer.

I have always liked Andy Murray and Serena Williams but that has now changed following their respective displays over the last couple of days at the US Open. I found their attitudes on the court this weekend repulsive and at the same time sad as I watched them unravel in front of millions of stunned witnesses. They both imploded in a spectacular fashion that left everyone astonished.

Sport is always a glorious uncertainty. We watch because we want to lose ourselves in a contest that excites and captivates as we witness individuals or teams entertain us at a level most can only dream of. We escape. We marvel at the skill on show. We appreciate. We celebrate.

On Saturday Murray carried on like a petulant child and his bizarre incessant and unconstructive talking to either himself or his coach was appalling. How his coaching staff can allow such a negative disposition to become part of his game is beyond me but he is now at the crossroads of his career. I have always admired his ability, his great court coverage and most importantly his athleticism. There have been question marks surrounding his mental stability and toughness and those concerns were answered loud and clear on the weekend. His tennis progress will be stunted until he matures.

Serena is the game’s finest ever female player, of that there can be no dispute. That being the case, why on earth does she occasionally carry on like a spoilt diva and astonish all with stunning irrational outbursts that are nothing short of embarrassing? The barrage she gave the chair umpire on Sunday following an inexcusable display of bad sportsmanship was a disgrace and pitiful to watch. She knows better. She let herself down badly and for someone so talented she will sadly also be remembered for abusive New York conversation. The ludicrous financial penalty she received that amounted to 1/700th of her prize money only added to the total bizarreness of the incident.

Both Murray and Serena shamed the sport of tennis. Neither advanced.

In stark contrast, during the men’s final shootout, Rafa and Novak put on one of the most brilliant exhibitions of sport possible. The pure entertainment they provided was a sight to behold as tortured bodies chased with bursting hearts in an effort to be crowned victor. They are both classy individuals who are true champions and for them I have nothing but admiration and respect. Watching those two warriors slug it out is enormously satisfying and a true reflection of why we tune in for hours to be absorbed by a thing of beauty.

In life there are winners and losers… as Serena not so eloquently bellowed…

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