Don’t call Laslo Djere the winner of a lottery, even though the Rio ATP Tour stop became a wide-open affair after all the seeds tumbled out, nearly every one in the first round. Djere had to work for every match he won this past week in Brazil, much as he had to work for every last point in a tough and contentious final on Sunday against Felix Auger Aliassime.
Don’t call Djere’s first ATP title a winning lottery ticket — not when he played with the death of his father still a very fresh memory, and not when the death of his mother several years ago made the loss off his dad that much more acute.
“I lost my mom seven years ago and I want to dedicate this one to her. And also to my dad, I lost him two months ago.”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) February 24, 2019
How many of us would be paralyzed by grief? To be very, very clear, there is nothing wrong or defective about being paralyzed by grief. We all operate on our own time and in our own ways. For some people, stepping away from professional activity is our needed escape from crushing sadness. For others, continuing to work is the best tonic, a path Roberto Bautista Agut followed after the death of his mother last year. We have seen Steve Johnson cry on court as he played after the death of his father.
Every human person has to decide what is right for himself/herself after losing a parent or a loved one. There is no “textbook answer” or empirically correct decision. Being paralyzed by grief is an honest emotional response to an event. If that is how grief must be processed, it is okay. It is not somehow “flawed” or “inferior.”
Don’t call Laslo Djere’s Rio championship a lottery — not under these circumstances, at least.
It is fitting and poetic — in a very poignant way — that the Rio final ended at night. Most (though not all) main-tour finals are staged in daytime hours. Rio — a 500-point clay tournament played in February when most of the tour is on European or Middle Eastern hardcourts — is a different event.
There was nothing ordinary about the 2019 Rio tournament from the beginning, and it ended by giving us one of the most powerful and unforgettable moments of the tennis season. What began in Brazil with a flood of upsets to big-name players (Dominic Thiem, Fabio Fognini, Diego Schwartzman) ended with a scene as gripping and uplifting as any Academy Award speech you might have seen later on Sunday night.
Tennis — like life — has a way of surprising us, and showing that there is no single cookie-cutter way to deal with grief or any of the other overwhelming emotions human beings have to handle.
The tennis world salutes Laslo Djere and offers him a warm hug. A championship doesn’t make the pain of personal loss any less profound. It does, however, represent a tangible display of the resilience of the human spirit.
There is a part of each and every person which wants to seek assurance that s/he is capable of bearing great pain and suffering. Laslo Djere’s title in Rio doesn’t solve all the world’s problems, but it represents one small yet meaningful piece of proof that we are capable of not only carrying great sorrow, but transforming it into something beautiful.
It is getting a little dusty in here, in addition to the clay courts of Rio.