Saturday, September 19, 2009

It must be Love..

They say sport is the ultimate form of competition.

An arena where gladiators fight tooth and nail for the ultimate prize.

A profession where sentimentality should be consigned to the rubbish heap. No point being nice here.

THAT was where the 2009 US Open was different.

It didn't have epic matches.

It didn't have stunning breathtaking tennis.

It didn't even have a Roger-Rafa final.

What it did have- as even the advocates of the determinedly 'non senti' approach to sport had to admit- were human stories.

Of course it is a well worn cliche' to pass most things off as 'human stories'- a somewhat compulsive need of journalists to fashion fiction from fact. But this time, even hardcore tennis lovers- the ones who obsess over Federer's footwork, know that Yaroslava Schvedova plays for Kazakhstan, wonder at the non progression of Nicholas Almagro and rue the absence of Fabrice Santoro and Justine Henin- even those idiots were won over by the kitschy soppy stories written by life- which seemed more suited to be on an after school special than on the tennis court.

It seemed foretold that the great F would reach the final at the very least. It seemed foretold that he would face either a dour Scot or a fire breathing Spaniard there. And the odds were that he would top either of them for a record 6th consequetive title.

It wasn't even too much of a surprise that the Tower of Tandil- a massive 6'6" JMDP reached the final by absolutely destroying the formidable Bull from Mallorca- after all he had lost only one match since Wimbledon.

What came as a surprise was the final. A 20 year old's refusal to wilt. Even a sub par F is a formidable challenge- so used is he to willing himself to victory. Unleashing the most powerful forehand in the game today, the Giant triumphed in five- curiously reversing the situation months ago in Paris where F had similarly come back to win in five sets after being down two sets to one.

At one stage two points from defeat, Delpo unleashed a monstrous forehand which barely clipped the line to break F- who launched into a tirade using that very letter quite a bit.

Opponents wouldn't have failed to notice his fifth set collapse- a sight becoming a little familiar- FYC- Wimbledon 2008 (THAT match), Australian Open 2009 and now the US Open 2009.
And then, the Giant from Argentina wept. The whole town of Tandil wept. The garrulous rowdy yet undeniably fascinating South American crowd wept, drank and lived it up. Tandil- until a few days back a little known town in Argentina- welcomed its hero like nobody's buisness. And JMDP- the 6'6 prodigy who had beaten the greatest of all time on his own turf- the Giant who had flattened another legend in the making before that- he wept throughout the procession. The coming of age of a new generation- fearless and undaunted- was a joy to behold.

Yet he was hard pressed to steal the thunder from the women.

What remains the defining picture of the year is a luminous Kim Clijsters beaming on court with the trophy in one hand and her sparkling daughter in another. Never has a champion radiated such warmth as Kim.

She did it the hard way, lighting up the awful, embarrasing state of women's tennis in a way no one else could- on the way defeating the lissome Venus Williams and outplaying the great, the legendary fighting skills of Serena Williams.

And she got people who had washed their hands off the women as a lost cause talking again. Do they deserve equal prize money? Of course not. Leaving alone the best of five arguement for a while, the women in the current crop are so woefully bad- barring the Williamses- that it is tough to support their claim to the money.

Not Kim though.

She proved stunning. Her semifinal against Serena, although immortalized by the latter's outburst was the best match of the year- quality wise.

No theatrical screaming, no sexy clothes- just pure sport. Unleashing a powerful crosscourt backhand, an accurate serve and a good forehand, the new Mum was all over the court- giving as good as she got and then some against her generation's greatest player.

In the end- after all the dust was swept off Arthur Ashe Stadium, the newly crowned Champion brought her daughter and husband onto court. Those were the most gratifying moments of the Open.

Because it showed that whether it is the close sisterhood of the Williamses, the unabashed love of Clijsters or the importance of the twins in RF's life- family is still the most important thing to the greats of their era.

And that's an encouraging thought.

*All Photographs from
No copyright infringement is intended.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Phone - a friend?

There's something really uplifting in taking a high moral stand.

You congratulate yourself and revel in looking with condescension at the plebeians carrying on their work in their own quotidian ways.

And then you pat yourself on the back for having come up with that wannabe megalomaniac show off sentence.

But sometimes, in an attempt to remain on your high horse, you often fall flat on your face.

Like the incident of the mobile phone.

I've never been one for mobile phones. Woe betide their ubiquitous presence in every nook and cranny! So much so, that you're really lucky nowadays if the person you're talking to deigns to actually look at you during the conversation.

Oh, and the judging, the constant gut wrenching judging- you end up losing the little self worth you had to begin with. I've been thrown so many disdainful looks and comments once my phone makes its presence felt. Its not even old, someone said to me, Its ANCIENT- this Nokia *$# or some such.

And so, I switched off my prehistoric phone for good one day. And took pride in not having a 10 digit identity that began with 9. And felt liberated from the feral tyranny of it.

And then I was shown my place. Almost at once.

It all began as a simple quest to go to someone's house located deep in the labyrinth of Pune's alleys. There was the minor issue of my never having been there before. Clutching a soiled paper with the address and a solitary phone number, I set off in an Auto. Oh he had a field day, he did. He led me deep into the alleys, smirking at my undisguised bewilderment. In the midst of nowhere, a pallid gloom descending and the meter going berserk, I made him stop at an intersection, paid him the scandalous fare and decided to chart my own course.

There were no less than seven small alleys leading in different directions from the intersection. Cursing- the one talent I do have- I set off on one of them. It was utterly useless. I confess to having looked wistfully at a billboard with Sachin smirking, a phone in hand- but I hastily chastised myself for my moment of weakness. Heading to the first in a long line of public phones, I inserted the requisite coin and started dialing, only to realize that it was out of order. The next one- same result and my only coin didn't come out.

There are moments in your life you want to earmark as a watershed- moments from when your life changed- from when you suddenly saw the light and started living differently.

This was not one of those times.

I desperately needed to call up and there was no way. And then I saw him- the same Auto guy was back, with a sadistic grin pasted to his face. Kho gaye ho?, he asked his face dripping with glee- a spider salivating at its prey. The prey nodded and asked him where the address was, only to find that the spider couldn't read (Stage 1- spin the web). And then he offered me....what else....a mobile. It certainly looked ultra fancy (Stage 2- attract the prey). In spite of myself, and I hate to admit it, I admired it for an instant. And made the damn call (Stage 3- TRAPPED).

When at last I did reach my destination I found myself paying both his suspiciously high mobile phone bill and the fare (Stage 4- Suck the prey's blood). As I turned to enter the house, I heard a guffaw of laughter (Stage 5- BURRP!).

Well, needless to say I got swindled on my way back as well. Deciding to walk a bit instead of going directly home, I then made the ill timed decision to get off. As if on cue, as if Geography had suddenly abandoned scientific principle and adopted Murphy's law instead, the skies opened. Scurrying under a tree, I had to wait in growing impatience while everyone else around me called someone or the other. When at last after swallowing my pride, I timidly asked someone if I could make a call, he snorted, 'No balance.'

I didn't muster the gumption to ask anyone else.

Drenched, soiled, and seething with fury I reached home- ready to pounce on anyone I found, and I discovered some friends sullenly waiting. There had apparently been a party. One I hadn't gone to. I had been sent an SMS about the change in plan.

Drawing myself up with dignity (what I could muster seeing that I was wet, covered in mud and had the beginnings of a drippy nose) I announced that I had given up my phone.


Utter and absolute.

And then- someone said it.
What happened?

It was one of those moments when you want the earth to open up and swallow you whole- wet clothes, dishevelled hair, muddy face- all of you, inch by sorry inch.

My well thought of, brilliant, epoch shattering response?

Did you check out the new pre paid scheme?

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