Out of Bounds?

September 01, 2017

There are points of similarity between tennis and squash. Both are played with a racket and a ball, and I would suppose that anyone who is good at one of these games wouldn’t be bad at the other. Nevertheless the courts are different and the equipment is different. Roger Federer is a supremely good tennis player—the greatest of all time, in the opinion of his fans. I suppose he might adapt quite well to squash. Yet I’m even more certain that if Federer were to challenge either of the past two World Squash champions, the Egyptian Karim Abdel Gawad or the Frenchman Gregory Gaultier, he would be as much at a loss as McGregor was against Mayweather, while conversely he would beat either of them 6–0, 6–0 on the tennis court.

There are, of course, numerous examples of people who have excelled at more than one sport, though this is rarer now in these days of more intense specialization. But the point surely is that to match the best in any sport you have to serve an apprenticeship. Conor McGregor might have had a chance to beat Mayweather (though it would still be unlikely) if he had fought several times under boxing’s Queensberry rules. But, of course, he might have lost any of these fights, and even if he hadn’t, the Mayweather fight might have been less of a media affair and therefore a lot less lucrative. As it is, he has made a fortune by engaging in a fight that no reasonable person thought he had much chance of winning. So he can laugh all the way to the bank—as, of course, can Mayweather.


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