There’s nothing like it in the world of big time high stakes sports. Take in the finals of a tennis Grand Slam tournament, say Wimbledon or the US Open. Observe the two combatants on center court slugging it out under circumstances that make tennis singles at this level quite unlike any other sport.
The two athletes are out there alone, no teammates alongside them. They enter the arena separately; each heads to a bench where they sit alone apart from one another. When changing sides during the match they take different paths and carefully avoid eye contact. They do not communicate with one another (though they will on occasion, by gesture, acknowledge an exceptional shot by their opponent).
On the tournament circuit, tennis, somewhat inexplicably, is the only sport where coaches are barred from the field of play (a boxer can speak with his or her manager at ringside, a golfer with his or her caddy) and from offering advice and devising strategies as the match progresses. In tennis, coaches are exiled to the grandstand, limited to applauding great shots and, through other gestures, urging their charges on. It’s all on each player to plot their own tactics, to reset when necessary and devise ways to counter moves by their opponent. Here is uncompromised individualism.