By Giri Nathan
The Racquet Newsletter has temporarily morphed into an advice column. Here’s our first “reader” submission:
I am a sporting legend. Way back when, I was the youngest man ever to win the biggest titles. That was fun. But I’ve had to sell a bunch of my trophies lately. Despite earning over $25 million on the court, and millions more off it, I declared bankruptcy in 2017. My lawyer said that I am “not a sophisticated individual when it comes to finances,” which, well, yeah. We tried to stall the proceedings by pointing out the diplomatic immunity I enjoy as “sports and culture attaché” of the Central African Republic, but somehow that move didn’t work. As of this week, I am facing 19 charges of failing to disclose property and money back in 2017. They sure seem upset about my alleged properties in two countries, alleged bank accounts, and an alleged ownership stake in the artificial intelligence firm Breaking Data Corp. What do I do next? How should I conduct myself in public?
—Listless in London
Dear Listless in London,
A classic dilemma, I understand. Lie low for a bit, meditate, and spend some quality time thinking things through with your lawyer. Devise a “game plan”—you know all about that. Figure out a return strategy for an opponent who is charging you 19 times. It would also be a good time to avoid any sort of high-profile spat with the most persistent attention-seeker in your field. Try to steer clear of using the internet like that for the foreseeable future.
If, hypothetically, a 25-year-old who hasn’t played tennis in seven months decided to post an old picture of himself with the caption “Different breed,” I would suggest shaking your head and scrolling past it, or even deleting the app from your phone if the temptation is too strong. You’ve got to let the little things go. As an internationally famous 52-year-old man about to undergo another round of public scrutiny, consider fighting the urge to type the comment “In your dreams.”
This advice is especially salient if you have a history with this young athlete. Let’s say he had criticized some fellow players for reckless behavior during a pandemic, and you didn’t like that, and you called him a “rat,” and then he called you a “doughnut”…probably just sit that next round out. All the imagery there is a little too fresh, too memorable. You’re trying to stay out of the headlines to whatever extent possible. Maybe even gain a bit of sympathy where you can: Donate blood, take a selfie to promote mask usage, make an anodyne political statement, that kind of thing.
I would also, more generally, suggest disclosing properties in two countries, several bank accounts, and an ownership stake in the artificial intelligence firm Breaking Data Corp when declaring personal bankruptcy.
Finally, look for another color-commentary gig to defray the legal costs ahead. You’re not bad at it!
Above: Boris Becker outside a courtroom in London. (Getty Images)