Fans and their idols share a unique camaraderie that constitutes a weird kind of chicken-egg correlation. The paradigm of this correlation starts from when a player – not an idol, but a mere player – starts winning tournaments. Consequentially the player becomes an intrinsic part of the hearts and minds of people, thereby leading these people to be called as fans and the player – their paragon. And this is where the levels of expectations from the idols start to rise, creating all sorts of fulfilment issues in their wake.
Each fan has his own expectation from his favourite and somehow the idol’s achieved results at the end of a particular season or a particular tournament, always turns out to be shorter than the fan’s expectation. And when fans start to try and drive players’ professionalism on the pitch, or on the court or on any other playing surface, it’s hugely judgemental and detrimental to the domain of fandom.
Perhaps this is what happens to the Frenchmen, the Scot and the Aussies when they play on their national soil at the Grand Slams. And while an American may not have won the US Open in the past couple of years, the heroics of Andy Roddick – albeit a decade back – and Serena Williams, five years ago, are still lingering to reduce the hunger of American tennis fans wanting an American to reclaim the title.
Gael Monfils reached the French Open semi-finals once and the quarter-finals twice in the past four years and each time that he did so, the French crowd went berserk thinking about the enormity of the deed. This year, even though he has pulled out of the tournament, citing injury, the French are still proudly waving their colours at Roland Garros and looking up to the likes of Tsonga and Gasquet. A month – or lesser – down the line, the same situation will apply for Andy Murray who will be fighting for British glory without any player to back him up in case he fails.
Failure to emulate what a different generation of paragons did, irrespective of the successes otherwise achieved, deals a death blow to the fans’ levels of anticipation. Of course, the metier of the players isn’t doubted but carried forward to the next season, where it rises by a few more notches. Consequentially, if a player fails to achieve the benchmark in his professional lifetime, the mantle passes onto the next player ascending, forcing him to try and live up to someone else’s expectations.
Of course, this is not to say that the player himself doesn’t want to bring in glory to his nation. He would want it as much as anyone else, but there again; he wouldn’t be devoting his entire lifetime towards one particular goal, would he? Fans need to understand this before holding out the mantle of their expectation for the players to grab onto.
Without idolatry, players would be incomplete. But where idolatry is fine at most levels, at the highest level of playing in the slams, what matters is an idol winning a slam – any slam for that matter.