Before his first appearance in a Grand Slam Final, Stanislas Wawrinka is reported to have said with admirable self-deprecation: “No one beats me 27 sets in a row”. It was a reference to his miserable record against his opponent Rafael Nadal and as events unfolded in Melbourne on Saturday night, it turned out to be true. It was 13th time lucky for the Swiss as he finally beat his Spanish friend and rival in four sets to lift the Australian Open title. It wasn’t just his tongue in cheek pre-match remark that rang true however. Wawrinka had inked his left forearm with the famous words of Samuel Beckett: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. It could hardly be more apt.
Without wanting to take any credit whatsoever away from Wawrinka, Nadal did of course play, at least the final three sets of the contest, with a lower back problem that left him operating with a mere fraction of his usual power, determination and intensity. Indeed, the biggest surprise of the evening was that he made it to the end at all. Mid-way through the second set Wawrinka, the crowd and everyone watching at home were simply waiting for a retirement from a visibly emotional Rafa. Nadal is on record as saying he’ll never get a tattoo but if he changes his mind he could do worse than another of Beckett’s quotes. After watching his bravery to fight on and give Wawrinka the satisfaction of closing out the match, I would suggest: I can’t go on, I’ll go on.
Footballers are no strangers to tattoos. So much so that Soccer AM were able to make a regular feature of having players display and explain the weird and wonderful ink all over their body. It has to be said that inspirational Samuel Beckett quotes were few and far between. The ‘What’s tat all about’ section of the Saturday morning show was personified by Brentford’s Charlie MacDonald’s it’s a bulldog innit tattoo on his right thigh and other classics included Graham Stack’s egg fried rice and Andy Reid’s Che Guevara.
I think it is a real pity that the football fraternity has not embraced the wisdom of Irish authors, poets and playwrights as a source for their body art and so here I’d like to make a few suggestions.
The evergreen Ryan Giggs still raging against the dying of the light: We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. (George Bernard Shaw)
Glass half full man David Moyes who still believes Utd have a shot at the title: The basis of optimism is sheer terror. (Oscar Wilde)
The dodgy dealing ex-Barça president who used a magic calculator during the Neymar transfer: He was a fiddler, and consequently a rogue. (Jonathan Swift)
The even dodgier Sepp Blatter: Power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power. (Geroge Bernard Shaw)
Mario “one sandwich short of a picnic” Balotelli: We are all born mad, some remain so. (Samuel Beckett)
The magical and softly spoken Lionel Messi: I have nothing to declare but my genius. (Oscar Wilde)
Serial spitter and all round detestable character, El Hadji Diouf: The secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people. (George Bernard Shaw)