Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Interpersonal Competence

Rafael Nadal is a “beast” on the tennis court according to Mary Carillo; and he proved it last Sunday.  If you read this blog with any regularity you know that I am a tennis fan.  I didn’t get a chance to watch the French Open final on Sunday.  And that’s too bad, because I missed an impressive display of tennis.  Nadal overwhelmed the world’s number one ranked player, Roger Federer, 6 -1, 6 – 3, 6-0.  Did you see the match?  What did you think?

I’m writing about this because I received a couple of positive comments and e mails on last Friday’s post about Barack Obama being gracious in his victory over Hillary Clinton.  Nadal, the number two ranked player in the world, was extremely gracious in his victory on Sunday.  He may be a beast on the court, but he is a gentleman once the match is finished. 

After the match, Nadal said…

“I feel like the number two because I am the number two and I am closer to the number three than the number one…I did not expect a match like this.  I think I played an almost perfect match. Roger played more mistakes than usual and I played more inside the court. I improved a little bit since last year. I have more control of the points, I am more aggressive than usual.

“Even if I’m playing my best tennis, I don’t win 6-1 6-3 6-0.  He (Federer) did not play very well, otherwise this result would not have been possible.  I did not prepare (for any celebrations). Today it was tough for Roger, I had to show respect. I have a good relationship with him.”

Federer, on the hand, was just as gracious.  He said,

“I hoped I could have done better today than four games. But Rafael was very strong this year.  He dominated form the first point until the end.  It’s the strongest Rafa that I’ve ever seen.  He was more dominant than in previous years…After a loss like this, you don’t want to play Rafa again tomorrow, that’s for sure.  Right now, I’d say it’s easier to lose this way, because all along the match you realize that there is nothing you can do.”

Tennis is considered to be a game played by ladies and gentlemen.  But even so, I think that the world’s top two men’s players provided us with a great lesson in interpersonal competence last Sunday.  What’s your take on this?  Was Nadal too gracious?  Should Federer have been even more so?

The common sense point here remains simple.  If you want to become known as an interpersonally competent person, be gracious.  Compliment others when you lose.  After the French Open final, Roger Federer said that Rafael Nadal, “Dominated from the first point until the end.”  On the other hand, handle victory in a similar manner.  Nadal said, “Even if I’m playing my best tennis, I don’t win 6-1 6-3 6-0.  He did not play very well, otherwise this result would not have been possible…Today was tough for Roger.”  Being gracious is a great way to build relationships.  And interpersonally competent people build relationships with all of the people in their lives.

As always, I’m interested in your perspective on these thoughts.  I welcome and appreciate your comments.  Thanks for reading.


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  1. Bud: While in corporate world and in politics these are done for the sake of doing it (there was personal attacks by both Hillary and Obama on each other), Rafa and Roger share a very healthy friendship – Roger giving lift on his aircraft to Rafa is a noteworthy gesture. They are a very good role model to be competitive still have a respect for the others. I wish both of them stay so for long.

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