It’s the official protocole : after each final, the winner, as well as the loser, both have to pick up the microphone and give a small post-match speech. An exercise in which some champions appear to be best public speakers than others…
The most « tough love » : Henri Leconte at Roland-Garros in 1988
Paris. 1988. Henri Leconte had just been defeated in three sets by Wilander, who he first praised in his own way (« Mats made me play badly, it’s his great strength »). The moment which remained in the history books came just after : his knee bent against the balustrade, he talked directly to the crowd, who gave him a bit of a hard time during the fortnight and also during the previous editions. « I hope that you’ve finally understood my game », he said, defying the crowd, and receiving a few boos as a response. When the circuit’s big mouth took the mic, to stand up to the Roland-Garros crowd, which has always been known to be a little difficult, obviously, things had to spark off…
The most Christlike : Michael Chang at Roland-Garros in 1989
The tradition states that after a final, both opponents usually pay each other an hommage. Except that the winner of the 1989 edition in the men’s circuit - Michael Chang - wasn’t really used to giving speeches. After having thanked his parents, the 17 year-old kid decided to pay a very peculiar hommage to…Jesus Christ, who, he said, he wouldn’t be anything without. Praises he said with a trembling voice, before handing back the microphone without saying a word about his opponent Stefan Edberg, or even looking at him once. It’s not important Michael, God forgives.
The best effort : Jim Courier at Roland-Garros in 1993
After two victories in a row during the previous editions, Jim Courier had just lost against Sergi Bruguera ? A disappointment ? Certainly, but at least, the American was now prepared to capture the support of the crowd. If the Spaniard made the effort of speaking in French, so could the American. Even if he was less than comfortable with the idea of speaking in French, Jim decided to give it a try and had fun with his own approximations. « Well okay, last year I spoke like a Spanish cow, and this year I played against a Spanish crowd », before turning serious again. « No, that’s not funny ». Yes, yes, it is !
The most comfortable with speeches : Marat Safin at the Australian Open in 2005
At the start of the 2005 season, Marat Safin won his second - and last - Grand Slam tournament at the Australian Open. Under the Melbourne sun, the Russian felt relaxed. Three years earlier, after his defeat against Thomas Johansson, he had amused the crowd by thanking his « cousins » present in his box, who turned out to be pretty groupies…This time, he talked to the crowd as the champion. His girlfriend was there so the great Marat was on his best behavior, but still very at ease to thank everyone, from his opponent Lleyton Hewitt to the sponsors without forgetting his team, everyone received a nice message, with a little pun each time. Rarely had we seen the Melbourne Park crowd laugh so much.
The most outlandish : Mary Pierce at Roland-Garros in 2005
Thanking the sponsors is pretty usual in Australia, but a little less in France. Mary Pierce found out the hard way when, a few months later, she gave her post-match speech after being defeated by Justine Henin, five years after her triumph against Conchita Martinez. Strangled by emotion, supported by some « Mary, Mary ! » coming down from the stands, she awkwardly launched herself in a series of hommages, from the official transportation company to the ballboys, without forgetting, obviously, the sponsors. A few whistles and boos were heard before the Franco-Canadian decided to finish her speech in English to thank her family. Outlandish.
The most moving : Roger Federer at the Australian Open in 2009
The greatest champions rarely turn out to be the beautiful losers. It’s also the case with Roger Federer, who had a tough time accepting his defeat in the final in Melbourne in 2009 against Rafael Nadal. Powerless, he started his speech with a « God, it’s killing me » followed by a few some tears which he couldn’t hold back. The moment was solemn, as the giant Federer’s armor was cracking. In the stands, Mirka looked shocked, as well as Nadal, more serious then ever, who applauded. The following ovation was long, as Federer, who was incapable of saying another word, handed back the microphone. Emotion in its purest form.
The most helpless : Andy Murray at the Australian Open in 2010
A year later, King Roger’s answer was expected : he won his fourth (and last, to this day) Australian Open, after dominating a helpless, and amazingly honest Andy Murray in the final. « I hope that I can come back here one day and win it », he said, without hiding his emotion, before giving his opponent a nice little nod : « I can cry like Roger but it’s frustrating not to be able to play like him. » The Scot has played five finals in Melbourne and has lost all of them.
The most expected : Andy Murray at Wimbledon in 2013
Thankfully for the current world number 1, there have been happier speeches. The most memorable one was certainly the one he gave in 2013 when he won Wimbledon, at home, after dominating Novak Djokovic. Entirely committed to his champion, the crowd hung on each of his words. « I know how much you wanted a British player to win, so I hope you enjoy ! » Rarely had a post-match ceremony showed an intense communion between the winner and the crowd.
The most accomplished : Li Na at the Australian Open in 2014
When she won the Australian Open in 2014, Li Na didn’t know that she was only a few months from retirement. After a perfect fortnight, she gave a speech full of spontaneity and humour. Sounding very sincere, the Chinese had prepared a few punchlines to pay an hommage to her agent (« you made me rich, thank you very much ») and her husband (« you’re famous in China now, (…) thank you, you’re a nice guy, and you’re lucky to have found me ! »). As her husband was crying out of laughter, the crowd looked seduced.
The most professional : Roger Federer at the US Open in 2015
If there was a prize for the best public speaker of the circuit, it would certainly be awarded to Roger Federer. The force of habit, certainly…his last speech given during a Grand Slam occurred after his lost final at the US Open against Novak Djokovic. He gave everything in a little less than two minutes : a nice way of speaking, hommages payed to everyone involved, a little emotion, a little humour…An example of a good speech which could feature in communication lessons for tennis players.