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Tennis stars remain gentlemen on and off the court; why can't anyone else?

Aaron Hall | Interrobang | Sports | September 19th, 2005



With sports coverage constantly bombarded by negative topics and images that demean the persona and image of sport, it is refreshing to hear a feel-good story about athletes who are not surrounded by controversy.

Lost amongst the NFL highlights and the MLB pennant race coverage, an aging fan favourite and a young superstar took centre court at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City.

Despite being ranked 7th in the world, and not expecting to perform at a high level, Andre Agassi delighted the American crowds throughout the 2005 United States Open. Displaying flashes of his former self, Agassi competed all the way to the final where he lost to the eventual champion Roger Federer.

Never during any of the telecasts of his matches did the commentators have to bring up instances where Agassi used performance-enhancing drugs during his career, was slapped with a domestic assault charge, or was caught with marijuana.

They never said these things because Agassi has always represented himself in a professional and sportsmanlike manner throughout his career. Maybe some athletes should take notes from Agassi, and try to keep the sports headlines from looking like a listing of court dates and felony charges.

That brings us to Federer. Many people have probably been thinking, “Feder who?”

Roger Federer is the number one ranked player in the world; he holds six Grand Slam titles, is the only player in history to capture back-to-back Wimbledon and US Open titles in consecutive seasons, and is doing this all at the tender age of 24.

Federer is a stand-up guy who contributes to his own charity, the Roger Federer Foundation, which helps fund projects that benefit disadvantaged children mostly in South Africa, and helps promote sport and the development of tennis around the world.

Although being the greatest tennis player on the planet, Federer is relatively unknown to many casual sports fans, and may only be truly appreciated by avid tennis enthusiasts. Subsequently, Federer is not on billboards across Canada and the United Sates, nor does he gain the notoriety or fame that some athletes possess, even ones who have spent their off-season in prison.

Headlines similar to, “Rafael Palmeiro suspended for drug use” or, “Kobe Bryant cleared on rape charges” tend to outweigh titles like, “Federer helps out disadvantaged children in South Africa.”

Also, the media may be too preoccupied with player's who walk out on teammates and coaches from practice, continue their workout in their front yard making a mockery of themselves, their organization, and their league, to give men like Federer their due in the press.

I'm sure Federer would like to thank you, Terrell Owens.

During the US Open final match between Agassi and Federer, there was no trash talking, cheating, or bickering back and forth between the athletes. The fans had no reason but to cheer on the crowd favourite Agassi, and applaud the sensational champion Federer.

The examples of Agassi and Federer showcase two men that represent the very essence of sport, and how athletes should portray themselves to their fans, the media, and the public.
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