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By Erik Gudris | Thursday, January 22, 2015

 
Tim Syczek Australian Open

Tim Smyczek, and his act of sportsmanship in his match against Rafael Nadal, taught a lesson to the rest of the tennis world.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Once again Tim Smyczek finds himself the most talked about American tennis player - for losing a match. Yet Smyczek's latest brush with unexpected celebrity may just keep people talking long after this year's Australian Open ends.

Australian Open: Day Five Picks

Smyczek, reaching the second round as a qualifier, almost beat Rafael Nadal in an over four hour struggle. An at times ailing Nadal willed himself into a winning position in the fifth set. Serving for the match, Nadal was distracted by a rowdy fan that caused him to miss his first serve. Smyczek, in return, told the umpire to give Nadal two serves. That act of sportsmanship drew applause from Nadal's team, the crowd and fans worldwide. Nadal went on to win the match, but Smyczek's action for doing the right thing continues earning him universal acclaim.

Currently ranked at No. 112, Smyczek is no stranger to sudden fame. Back in 2013, he endured a tough five set loss to another Spaniard, Marcel Granollers, at the US Open. Smyczek's loss then meant that there would be no U.S. men in the fourth round of their home major for the first time since 1881. Despite his disappointment, Smyczek handled the increased interest in him, as he is now, with grace and a positive attitude.

Smyczek's sporting act in Melbourne deserves high praise. Yet, why is it, to borrow a current phrase, going viral throughout the world?

Watch: Smyczek's Act of Sportsmanship Applauded by Aussie Fans

A lot of that is due to Smyczek's unselfish act, and rightly so. It often takes a surprise event for tennis to break into the mainstream conversation and Smyczek, doing something good while playing against one of the sport's greats, is a perfect feel good story.

Some of that also might be due to the growing perception that tennis is losing its traditional civility, especially when it comes to its unspoken code of conduct. Nadal later said that not many players would have done what Smyczek did. And he's right. The pressure to win in the pro ranks is making the tour as a whole feel more cutthroat and with players seeking every advantage, legit or not, that they can get away with.

Things are worse in the lower ranks and in the juniors. Last year's video of a player throwing his racquet that ended up hitting a lineswoman shocked some but didn't surprise others. In the juniors, tales of fist fights, tantrums, and cheating as players call their own lines are becoming more common. Winning, by any means, for some is everything.

Smyczek proved that, actually, it isn't. And for that Smyczek deserves all of the accolades he is getting. Hopefully Smyczek will finally taste victory should he find himself in yet another close five setter at a major. For now, he hopes all of the good wishes he's received will boost him into the new season. He thanked everyone in this Twitter message.


Smyczek reminded us all that sportsmanship lies at the heart of the sport and that being fair and honest should be what we aim for in every match. Whether you play on public courts or on the sport's biggest stages.

And for that lesson learned on Tuesday night down under, we all can say "Thanks Tim".

 

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