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"Things have really changed in today's tennis. In my years there were more upsets, there were a lot more names... It was not as predictable as tennis is today. You've got the question: «Who's gonna win the next Grand Slam?» and you only have four options" - Stefan Edberg on today's tennis. Read the interview

STE...fans backs Qureshi for Sportsmanship Award

by Mauro Cappiello

Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi

At the end of last month, the nominees for the 2011 ATP Sportsmanship Award were made, so it will be Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi who will contend for the prestigious prize that was named after Stefan Edberg, once he retired from professional tennis back in 1996. With a disputable choice, the ATP decided to name a player unknown by large audiences like Pakistan’s doubles specialist Qureshi, together with three of the top four guys in the world singles ranking. But, even though his name won’t mean much to sporadic tennis followers and even though he will probably be overwhelmed by the other three contenders in the votations made by fellow members of the ATP World Tour, STE…fans wants to back Qureshi as the only deserving winner of the Award.

A career devoted to sports and peace
Considered he’s not an elite player, the 31-year-old man from Pakistan has done in terms of sportsmanship through the years (and not only in 2011) much more than what the other players have done combined. Through his sport, he’s gone beyond prejudice and discrimination from his country, promoting tennis as a mean for overcoming political barriers among different nations, which is the supreme way of “conducting at the highest level of professionalism and with the utmost spirit of fairness”, as specified in the award motivation.

After turning professional in 1998, Qureshi first came in the news in 2002, when he decided to partner Israeli Amir Hadad in Wimbledon and US Open doubles tournaments, despite the “cold relationships” that have always run between their two countries. This earned him and his doubles mate an Artur Ash Humanitarian of the Year Award for 2002. A prize that Qureshi also won last year, together with his current doubles partner, Indian Rohan Bopanna (by the way, where is his nominee for the 2011 Edberg Award?), another player from a country Pakistan has stormy relationships with.

In 2010, Aisam and Rohan have created a campaign, Stop War Start Tennis, with the aim of playing a tennis match in Wagah, on the border joining India and Pakistan, with both players on either side of the border.

The “Sportsmanship Award” is not the “Player of the Year Award”
There’s no need to add more to indicate Qureshi not only as the ideal winner of the award for this year, but also as the man who could reverse a trend that, in recent years, has seen the ATP give the prize not to the real sportsman of the year, but to the player with the best results in the season.

This has clearly happened in 2009 and 2010, for example, when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal respectively have been voted “Sportsman of the Year”, when, in our humble opinion, they wouldn’t have either deserved a nominee. And let me remind you that, if it’s the other players who vote the winner, it’s the ATP who makes the nominees.

At the same time, it’s quite strange that, since 2004, the prize has gone to the year-end number one or two. Is it really so hard to find a true sportsman out of the top of men’s tennis? In our opinion, it’s a scandal that sportsmen like Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick didn’t get a nominee. Still they are American, so from a nation that gets high visibility, and are ranked or have been ranked in the top ten.

The impression is that the ATP is using this award to pump up the popularity of the most prominent players rather than to promote the fair spirit of tennis and positive behaviors by its protagonists, in and off court.

Questionable winners
We strongly believe that there should be an episode or a series of episodes to justify the nominee for a certain year and this has not happened recently.

In these two videos, you can see Roger Federer smash a racquet in frustration in Miami and speak roughly to the chair umpire in the US Open final against Juan Martin Del Potro.

Those episodes both happened in 2009, when he was voted “Sportsman of the year”, overcoming the nominees of Ivan Ljubicic, Jarkko Nieminem and Carlos Moya. Generally speaking, Roger Federer is certainly a sportsman who has done a lot for tennis, in and off-court. He also has Stefan Edberg’s endorsement. After the two met last year in Stockholm, Stefan said: «He's very smooth and easygoing, so I think he's a great, great, great guy for tennis in general, I think both on and off the court». But, the fact that he is named every year, even when he doesn’t deserve it, just because he is Roger Federer, is ridiculous.

This other video shows Rafael Nadal vividly contest a decision by the umpire at the London ATP World Tour Finals, after the Hawk-Eye had shown his indication of a ball out was wrong.

Earlier in Wimbledon, he was (rightly) accused by his third round opponent Philipp Petzschner of requesting a “strategic” medical time out when down two sets to one. Both episodes happened in 2010, when the Spaniard was voted “Sportsman of the Year”, overcoming the nominees of Marin Cilic (?), Taylor Dent and Roger Federer.

None of us who witnessed Stefan Edberg’s career needs to be reminded that Stefan never talked roughly to an umpire, never smashed a racquet in anger and never used a medical time out to escape a difficult score situation. That’s why the Sportsmanship Award was named after him and that’s why it should never be delivered to a player committing one of the above during a tennis season.

Vote for your 2011 Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award winner»
STE...fans backs Qureshi for Sportsmanship Award



0 #3 Shane 23.11.2011 @ 19:51
So what's the point? They should give the award to Qureshi because we do not have video of him losing his temper? And suggesting Roddick because he had a funny interview after one match, while being pretty much a horrible ambassador to the game otherwise (check the multiple videos of that on youtube, including him walking out of a press interview earlier this year in (I think) Shanghai). To your credit, you don't mention Djokovic, who should be at the bottom of any sportmanship list. Yes, Federer is not an angel, but then no one really is. However, I think the respect he has for the game and what he gives back to it, is far more than any of these other supposed champions can claim. Yes, he hasn't always been very complimentary of his opponents, but considering how disrespectful those same opponents (e.g., Djokovic and Berdych) have been towards him, I frankly don't see why he should go around kissing their *you know whats*.
0 #2 Mauro Cappiello 17.11.2011 @ 05:06
Valarie, I want to thank you for your comment, and everyone else for "liking" the article.

I've seen my annotation on Fish and Roddick deserving a nominee raised some opposition. The episodes you noticed are true and, actually, I was not thinking of them deserving a nominee for this year, but for the past years. For example, you will remember how Roddick lost the 2009 Wimbledon final. Yet, after the match he was there, joking at the microphone and acknowledging his opponent's qualities (even if Federer had a "15" printed on his suite that was not very respectful of his opponent). For me, that episode was worth more than his several tirades against the umpires and the line judges and should have earned him at least a nominee for that year.

And for Fish: a player who can improve his ranking that way at the age of 29 shows the highest level of professionalism . Moreover, he always has a positive attitude towards his opponents. For example, I remember a deeply felt hug with Juan Martin Del Potro after the semifinal lost in Delray Beach this year (Juan Martin was back to high level after a long injury and I don't remember other public displays of affection for him for his comeback by any other player).

If you ask me for other players deserving a nominee this year, I would name Del Potro himself and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, for their always positive on court behavior.

On several forum comments, fans made me notice that the article reported Federer's and Nadal's breaking of sportsmanship rules and not Djokovic's. But that's only because the Swiss and the Spaniard have already won the award. Actually a guy who bounces the ball so many times before serving, going beyond the time allowed, and confesses he uses an at least suspicious method to recover from fatigue, is not my ideal candidate either.

As far as Qureshi, I don't have the smallest hope he will get that award. As someone has noticed, it has become a popularity contest. That's why I wrote this article.
+1 #1 Valarie 12.11.2011 @ 19:52
First of all, thanks to the administrators of this site. I love your work in keeping the spirit of Stefan Edberg alive!

This is a well-written and well-balanced post. I'm a big Federer fan, but you did a good job of pointing out his good qualities generally while calling him out on things other people (sometimes me included) let him get away with.

However, I do have to take issue with your statement that Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick should've at least been nominees. Andy famously bullies linespeople (who cannot speak to defend themselves), and not just with a quick curse or smart remark - his tirades will go on for up to 10 mins. This behavior has gone on consistently through the years. It's painful and horrible to watch, and it's truly a shame, because I get the sense that off the court, he's a very decent guy. And while I really like Mardy Fish, he called an umpire at this year's US Open an asshole, which is certainly not Edbergian behavior (although perhaps you were thinking more specifically of Fish in years past).

I have no problem with your choice of Qureshi for the award. I don't have a lot of faith that he'll get it, but hey, you never know.

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