Monday, January 30, 2006

Roger,Rs. 20 I lost and etc...

I think in everybody's life, we come across some person (or persons if we are lucky), of whom we become an avid fan of. Fan to such an extent that we start doing things which in normal situations we wont do.Things which, when we look back makes us wonder why we did it in the first place.We feel adrenaline rush.We feel emotions which we never feel for anyone or anything else.(No,am not talking about love).Take Roger Federer in my case. Australian Open 2006, 4th round singles match:Roger Federer vs Tommy Haas. I went around saying that this is a tougher test for Roger(Haas having beaten him few weeks back in an exhibition match). Roger won the first two sets 6-4 6-0. People ,who expected a tough match, started vacating Rod Laver Arena. I was not following the scores for the first two sets. When I came back to office, I saw the scoreline and was happy.Not that bad as what I expected, huh! And then, it all started going wrong for Roger. Haas won the third and the fourth 3-6 and 4-6. Then, my hands started shivering. My legs and hands went cold. No, Federer cant lose this. How can he? The fifth set went too close initially and then the Swiss Master delivered it when it mattered the most. He went on to win the last four games and the set 6-2 and the match. What a relief!

Next came the QF against Nikolay Davydenko.Frankly speaking, I thought Haas was a tougher opponent than Nikolay Davydenko. I predicted a safe passage to the final for Roger where he would fight it against David Nalbandian.But no, I was proved wrong. The Russian won the second set and what an action in that third set. My heart beat would have never been that fast like what it was during that third set. Roger serving 5-6 down. 15-40 and two set points to be saved.And he did that.In the tie breaker, Roger was down 3-6. Three more set points saved. Again down 6-7, one more set point saved. Finally he got a set point at 8-7 and Roger converts. What a relief, once again!

Thats the greatest thing about these great players. They dont break down when they are down and deliver the most when it matters. After Sampras, I think its only Roger who rarely shows any emotion on court.He would be cruising easily to a win:No emotion. Bad line calls. Just a look at the line, and he would just walk off. He would be a set and a break down. No emotion. No frustration. And thats one of his greater strengths. He never loses his composure.He never questions his abilities. Never thinks that he is going to lose a match. What a self confidence! I have never seen anyone save 6 set points and win a set like what Roger did that day. And to add more to that, I had to cut short my sojourn to Chennai(thanks to CAS) to come back and see the finals yesterday.I cant miss to see Roger lifting the cup, can I?

Again in the finals, he lost the first set, was down a break in the second, two points in the third game of the second set when he could have been double break down. Did he lose his cool? No. Mr.Cool is Mr.Hot when it matters. Again 6-5 second set and Baghdatis was serving to force a tie break. Was up 40-0 on his serve and Federer broke his serve from there to win the set 7-5.He did not stop there, did he?Won 11 games in a row, and before Baghdatis could figure out what was happening,we were in the fourth set, Federer up 3-0.Amazing to watch you play Federer. And his acceptance speech after lifting the cup is something we would remember not for what he said, but for what he did not say.Roger Federer can cry! Thats news to me. Finally some emotion from him."Its all coming out now", he said. I think we need a role model like Federer. People say that we have never got a World Number One who is so much approachable to fans off court like Roger.He maintains low profile unlike some other tennis players who spend more time endorsing different brands than playing tennis. How many television ads do we see Roger in?I havent seen any. I like things like this and I like his dominance in Men's tennis.I wish he wins a Grand Slam this year. Wimbledon and US Open should be of no problem to him.May the Sorcerer cast some spell on Roland Garros and win the French this time somehow. I would like to see that happen this year.

Lets compare men's tennis and women's tennis over the last few years. Starting from 2004, out of the 9 Grand Slams so far, we have got 8 different champions for Women's Singles while Federer has won 6 out the 9! And no woman has won more than one grand slam in a single year, while Roger won 3 in 2004 and 2 in 2005.Amazing stuff. I like Roger to break Sampras' record of 14 and set a new Grand Slam record which would be very difficult to break for any other person in the future. Talking about Women's tennis, there is no one dominating over there. The No: 1 spot dangling like never before. It was great to watch Steffi- Seles battle in the 90's. We lack something like that now. Women's tennis produces so many Ova's every year, but no one is dominating like Navrotilova.And players are plagued by injuries like never before. Aus Open has tradionally had many players pull out.But never have I witnessed a singles' champion who has won three out of her seven matches 'cos of retirement. And that too, two of them were during her semifinal and the final.

I think players are stressed out more these days because of more number of tournaments.Lindsay remarked last year that after the US Open when they normally expect to play the year ending WTA Tour Championship and rest, they instead have so many other tournaments in between and that stresses them a lot. Many of the players cant afford to miss them because, the competition at the top is too tough.Look at this. This was the situation at Aus Open 2006. Lindsay lost the No 1 spot after her QF loss.After that, if Clijsters wins her QF against Hingis, she is the new No 1. If Clijsters loses the match and if Mauresmo wins the Open, then Mauresmo is the new No 1.It is that difficult to stay No 1 in Women's tennis these days. And there is so much of power play into women's tennis these days. Gone are the days when there was grace, poise and elegance which we saw in 80's and 90's. Its power, power and more power and that means you are drained a lot and you dont stay fit for tournaments.

If its that difficult at the top for women, then think about the situation below rank 30.I want to talk about Sania Mirza here.It is good that we have found a sportsperson apart from a cricketer who gets the whole nation chanting and praying(Though I sincerely doubt that many young men in India are after Sania for a reason different altogether and not her tennis).So, when she was up against Michaella Krajicek,who was ranked below her, I was confident that Sania would win.I bet twenty rupees on her that she would win. I was up at 5.30 AM to watch her play and what an appalling display from her. She doesnt know to serve(This is a fact everyone knows) and to add to that, she didnt even know to keep the ball in play. Everything was going either out of the court or directly into the net. It seems, her forehand is her strength. I wont say so after seeing that match and her opponent played intelligently, knowing how weak her forehand is. After losing that twenty rupees, I decided that I wont bet on Sania, ever in my life again. It was funny to hear Amritraj's comments during the match. So much was his expectation out of the match that even before Krajicek's ball goes long, he would cry that its 'Out' only to find the ball land in. And right after Sania lost the match, they showed this Club HP Ad, where she plays the violin and the three guys say "Sania Mirza ko violin bajaana nahin aatha". I was saying to myself: "Sania Mirza ko pehle tennis khelna nahin aatha". It was funny to watch the Ad right after her loss.I was laughing all over it.

I have heard people say this:There is not much of difference in points between players who are ranked between 30-50 in women's tour. Its all seperated by a difference of ten or twenty points. So its no big deal in getting ranked 32 or 52. If I am 52 and you are 32 and we both enter a tournament. I enter the third round and you lose in the first, then I may well become 32 and you would drop down to 52.So, if Sania Mirza can break into top 15, then I would agree that shes a better player. Atleast there is a huge difference of points between the top 15 say, and the rest. As long as Sania is entering so many tournaments and gets into 2nd and 3rd rounds, she would be swaying between ranks 30-50 depending upon where she loses. She needs to go beyond the intial rounds. She needs to improve her serve. She needs to learn to be patient and keep the ball in play. All the power play and going for corners and lines is Ok. But that cant be done on every ball, you see. You cant hit a down the line winner or cross court winner on every ball you get. You need to be intelligent, adaptive and patient Sania. Then you would become a better player and I want you to become one.