Wawrinka and Samuel Beckett: On Failure
By Shlomo Maital
Samuel Beckett Stan Wawrinka
There is a very interesting connnection between Swiss tennis star Stan Wawrinka, #3 in the world and winner of the Australian Open, and author and playwright Samuel Beckett, Irish-French, author of Waiting for Godot.
Wawrinka just won the Australian Open Grand Slam, unexpectedly defeating Rafael Nadal, to whom he had repeatedly (at least 12 times in Grand Slam events) lost in the past. His win was decisive, in four sets, and Wawrinka at times (according to the New York Times) bullied Nadal, something that Nadal usually does himself with fierce ground strokes and serves.
Wawrinka himself found it hard to believe; and it is rare that a number 8 ranked player wins over the Big Four (Murray, Federer, Djokovic, Nadal).
What is his secret? According to Greg Bishop (Global New York Times, Jan. 28), last March Wawrinka had the following words, written by Beckett, tattooed on his left forearm: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better!” (from his play Westward Ho!, 1983).
Before Sunday’s Australian Open final, the Big Four players had won 34 of the 35 major titles. That means, if you’re not one of the big four, you have a one in 35 chance to win, or less than three per cent. But, if you try to fail better (that means, try your absolute best, facing huge odds, battle with everything you have, leave it all on the court, and walk off with dignity and pride even if you lose), one day you will win. Or, you will “fail to fail”, as Bishop puts it nicely, which means you will succeed.
Wawrinka offers us a big lesson in life. And it was fun to see how he himself could hardly believe he had won.