Tennis Identity

Thoughts on “The Superstar Effect,” the Tennis Seesaw and the Laws of Physics

Today's Wall Street Journal presents an article entitled "The Superstar Effect." In it Jonah Lehrer details research that serves to prove that "From the playing field to the boardroom, when one competitor is clearly the best, the others don't step up their game – they give up." I don't think this is true in tennis.

Roger Federer Wimbledon 2009Roger Federer, among the best tennis players of all-time, is an example of an "Intimidator." Yes playing him would be intimidating for most but for a top 50 player, with doubt tucked away (the kiss of death) and a lot happening right, a win IS possible. It's happened more than most light followers of tennis know.

Ivan Ljubicic BNP Paribas at Indian Wells Champion - Mens Singles Case in point, at the still-in-progress Sony Ericsson Open, Roger Federer, was taken out by Tomas Berdych who will play in the finals against Andy Roddick Sunday. Berdych is ranked #20 on the ATP World Tour. 

Another example,  the recent BNP Paribas Open,won by Ivan Ljubicic (pictured above left), a 26th ranked player who took out Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal (another "Intimidator") and Andy Roddick on his way to the victory.

I personally LOVE the tennis seesaw, the who's up who's down of it all. It's what makes watching matches so exciting.

It does appear that once marquee players hit it big in the marketplace their attentions are often pulled off court. That could be a factor in favor of opponents who are doing nothing but training. Federer and Maria Sharapova, talents with golden touch marketability, have struggled in some recent tournaments. Both have massive endorsement empires. Note that stumbles aside they are still currently #1 ATP and #12 (WTA) in the world respectively. Not shabby of course, but they can and have been beaten recently.

Novak Djokovic, ATP world #2, is earning big off court as well. Endorsement deals have followed his on-court successes but he too has had some recent stumbles.  Check out this recent video, which brings me to the physics portion of this post, a charming Novak Djokovic vs. Tennis Machine, a video sponsored by Djokovic's racquet company HEAD:

 Djokovic, like Sharapova and Federer, is another "Superstar" in the world of tennis. He like the others at the top need to watch out, because those standing on the lower rungs of the ranking ladder are hungry and while Djokovic, for example, is dabbling in physics, these future opponents are grinding it out, eyes on the prize, that tasty big win against a top ranked player.

This post was sponsored in part by HEAD.