It hurts to watch.
That thought went through my mind as I watched the awards presentation following the men's Wimbledon final in which Federer defeated Roddick 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14. If those numbers look weird, that's because they are. It was the longest final in the history of Wimbledon. And it didn't turn out the way I wanted.
Andy Roddick had dropped fifteen pounds, had changed his training, and had hired a new coach---all with the hope of winning the title. He hasn't won one since 2003. And with the No. 1-ranked player out of the tournament battling an injury, Roddick was poised to succeed.
But it wouldn't be easy. In order to get to the finals, he first had to play a Brit in the semis who had the whole crowd behind him. Roddick overcame that challenge. And then two days later, he had to face Federer. A man who was going for his fifteenth title and would make history in the process if he won.
So to say that Roddick was an underdog in the finals is a huge understatement. The crowd was pulling for history to be made, just like those in the crowd at the Olympics last year waiting for Phelps to win his eighth gold. But underdog or not, Roddick came to play and to win.
He took the first set. The next two sets had to go to tie-breakers, which Roddick lost. He took the fourth set by a huge margin. And so as the match wore on, it looked like he had the trophy within reach. But then he made a few errors during his service game, and away it went.
Roddick was a gracious loser, giving Federer credit for his win, but the tears couldn't hide Roddick's disappointment. He had done everything that he could have done, he had played with all his heart, and he had still come up short.
It struck me so much because that often happens off the court in the game of life. It's hard to watch people put their all into something and not succeed. Sure, it builds character. But that seems like small consolation at the time. In the moment, the title or trophy seems all important, even though it's often not as long-lived as the character-building lesson.
And though it's the nature of the game to have just one winner, I saw two, just as I often do in the game of life: The one who takes home the trophy, and the other who takes home the lesson. And my hope is that Roddick will take the lessons learned from this final and the confidence gained from knowing that he gave "the best tennis player in the history of the game" a run for his money and turn them into his own trophy moment in the future. Because that's a win-win proposition worth watching for.