During his interview with the ESPN team following a four-set victory over Kei Nishikori in the men’s semi-finals of the 2016 US Open tennis tournament, Stan Wawrinka was asked if he had an explanation for his winning ways in recent years – a victory over Rafael Nadal to win the 2014 Australian Open, a win over Novak Djokovic in the 2015 French Open final and now another opportunity as a finalist in this year’s US Open against Djokovic who is also the number one player on the tour.
“I believe I am closer to the end than I am to the beginning,” the 31-year-old Wawrinka responded and implied that he understood the limits of playing professional tennis into his thirties like the Williams sisters and Roger Federer who are apparently the equivalent of the proverbial Energizer bunny in their tennis careers. The reality of the finite nature of his capabilities had inspired him to prepare to play his very best on the biggest stages at the Grand Slam venues in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York City. Stan played to win.
I resemble that remark, I thought, when I heard the Swiss player make it. Closer to the end than the beginning – part of the largest generation ever, a generation gradually passing into what? The twilight years, the golden years, the days of wine and roses? The days of fixed incomes and variable costs of living…the days of eye floaters and arthritis…of grandchildren that bring joy and hope… and parents with special needs…the days of loss of friends and family…the days of disbelief in news headlines…you know he didn’t, but he did.
We are living on the short side of time and if we share Stan’s spirit, we also have an opportunity to play our best games in the championship matches that challenge us to reach beyond what we can see and hear and touch in our everyday lives – a call to dig deeper and continue to contribute our abilities that will make a positive difference in a world we helped to create, in the families we choose to love.
And so Stan Wawrinka will play tomorrow in the final with an outcome to be determined on the Arthur Ashe Court of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center. He will bring his best game and when he needs encouragement, it won’t come from the fans who watch but from within himself. He has a tattoo on his left arm in Italic script by the Irish writer Samuel Beckett:
“Ever tried, ever failed, no matter. Try again, fail again, fail better.”
Good luck to Stan and to Novak, too – and to all of us a good night.