It’s the very early hours of Tuesday morning, Australian time, and the fourth round of the French Open is underway. After winning two tiebreakers, Lorenzo Musetti has pushed Novak Djokovic to a five set match. The best in the world, however, has fought back and a tennis lesson is taking place. At 4-0 in the fifth, with seemingly only two games to play, Musetti withdraws; pulls the pin, dips out. He chucks in the towel before the job is done.
In his subsequent press conference Musetti confirmed he wasn’t injured but simply that ‘There was no chance that I could win a point so I decided to retire’. In a sport that has heavy sanctions for ‘tanking’ – the perceived lack of best effort or deliberately losing – the decision seemed risky. Moreso, though, it spoke of a lack of courage. The tennis world was disappointed, at best. The great Boris Becker pointed out that ‘ It’s not just about playing tennis; it’s about character …’
We all tank at times. Sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes it’s essential. Sometimes our choices are limited. But there are other instances when we’ve simply had enough of trying. It’s that half-finished painting that poses the difficult question. It’s that drawing that’s too hard to even begin. It’s the abandoned ideas, the concepts, the visions that threaten to take too much work or feel beyond our capabilities. The last two percent, or ten, or more, requires the most effort and we often fall short of that effort. We walk away before the job is done.
Of course, there’s no international federation to impose fines on us. Of course, we need to recognise when it is better for us to let something slide. But there are situations that might benefit from a bit of stickability, and perhaps we would too. Big things or small, sometimes chucking in the towel may not be the best option.