The Unlikely Destroyer Trio

A statement that Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Boris Becker are among the three most dominating players at Wimbledon would lead to probably no dispute or disagreement. Surprise of surprises, Sergiy Stakhovsky, George Bastl and Peter Doohan are an unlikely trio who have had shock wins over these three fearsome champions at Wimbledon.

Lets know a bit more about these by and large unknown players.

Peter Doohan

Aussie Peter Doohan had a highest ranking of world number 43 and reached the 4th round of a Grand Slam only twice, once each at the Australian Open and Wimbledon. At French Open he never progressed beyond 1st round and even at US Open he only reached the 2nd round just once.

However in the second round of the 1987 Wimbledon in 1987 Doohan defeated 2 time defending champion Boris Becker. This is regarded as one of the biggest upsets of Wimbledon ever.

Doohan’s upset of Becker came in handy for his fellow Aussie Pat Cash who won the only Slam of his career. Cash, who was world number 413 a year ago due to injuries put in a tremendous performance against reigning US Open and French Open Champion Ivan Lendl who had lost to Becker a year ago. Wimbledon remained the only Major which Lendl could not win in his illustrious career and interestingly he lost to both Becker and Cash in straight sets.

George Bastl

Federer is from Switzerland and so is George Bastle However they indeed have contrasting careers. Doohan’s career actually is a good one as compared to Bastl, whose highest ranking was 71 and who only reached the 2nd round of US Open twice and 3rd round of Wimbledon once.

At Wimbledon 2002 Bastl incredibly defeated none other than the great 7 time champion Pete Sampras in the second round before losing to eventual runners-up Nalbandian in the final. That year Hewitt became champion to lift his 2nd Major after the 2001 US Open. Ironically Hewitt lost in the 1st round the next year to an unknown Ivo Karlovic. Probably it was destiny that Pete Sampras lost his last two matches at Wimbledon to Swiss players, namely Bastl in 2002 and to Federer a year earlier.

Sergiy Stakhovsky

Ukrainian Stakhovsky , currently ranked Number 99 has had a high ranking of 31 and has won 4 ATP titles. However his biggest claim to fame will always be defeating world number 3 Federer in the 2013 Wimbledon championships. His rank was 116 at that point of time. This was Federers earliest loss after 10 years, the previous being at 2003 French Open and he had entered at least the Quarter finals of Grand Slams a record 36 times.

Doohan, Bastl and Stakhovsky have been chosen as by and large they have not done anything major in their careers , yet defeated such huge exponents of the game, that too at Wimbledon where they have had incredible performances.

In his own way, Rafa Nadal too is an extraordinary Wimbledon champion.  He not only won the title in 2008 and prevented Federer from 6 in a row but also won a  2nd Wimbledon title in 2010 and was runners up to Djokovic the next year, in what was an extraordinary year for Novak.

However interestingly and almost inexplicably, from 2012 to 2015, for 4 consecutive years Rafa lost to players ranked below 100. These were Likas Rosol in 2012, Steve Darcis in 2013, Nick Kyrgios in 2014 and Dustin Brown in 2015. Even more astonishingly Dustin Brown has a 2-0 career head-to-head against Rafa, with both wins coming on grass.

Qualifier Jelena Dokic defeating Martina Hingis in 1999 , Lori Mcneil defeating Steffi in 1993 and Roger Taylor defeating Rod Laver in 1970 are other famous upsets at Wimbledon of unknowns defeating favorites, that too in the 1st round.

Any more upsets you can think of ?? Either at Wimbledon or at any of the other Grand Slams .

Advertisements

Do you know everything about Amitabh Bachchan

“Star of the Millennium” Amitabh Bachchan carried the Olympic torch at London. Big B who was voted the greatest actor in the world by a BBC online poll was the 1st Indian actor to have a waxwork at the famous Madame Tussaud’s in London.

Amitabh celebrated his 75th Birthday on 11th October 2017. Let us reminiscence some rare trivia about the “Shahenshah”.

His Parents Shri Harivanshrai Bachchan, an English Professor at Allahabad University was a well known poet. His mother Smt Teji Bachchan who was a Psychology teacher was a social activist.

They have done a cameo in one of Amitabh’s best movies, Kabhie Kabhie where they played the role of Rakhee’s parents performing her Kanyadaan. Teji Ji also played the role of Lady Macbeth in her husband’s Hindi adaptation of Macbeth.

His real name . Amitabh was originally named Inquilaab by Harivanshrai Ji. Their family title was originally Shrivastava. However Harivanshrai ji took the name Bachchan as a pen name and stuck to it. He also changed his son’s name from Inquilaab to Amitabh. Hence he came to be known as Amitabh Bachchan.  We certainly cannot think of him as anything else. Can we  for instance visualise him as Inquilaab Shrivastava ?

Amitabh and Shashi Kapoor. During the Ivory-Merchant movie Shakespeare-wallah, starring Shashi Kapoor, there was a death scene where Amitabh played the role of an extra, standing as one of many mourners. Shashi, an established star then, walked up to him and asked him not to do these bit scenes, saying he was meant for better things. He also asked the Director to cut these scenes from the movie.

Later of course Amitabh and Shashi did as many as 16 movies together.  Some of the memorable ones are Deevaar, Kabhie Kabhie, Trishul, Kaala Patthar, Do aur do Paanch, Trishul, Shaan and Namak Halaal.

They also had one of the most memorable dialogues ever in Hindi movies when Vijay (Amitabh) in Deevaar  asks “Aaj mere paas paisa hai, bangla hai, gaadi hai, naukar hai, bank balance hai aur tunhare paas kya hai:? After a pregnant pause Ravi ( Shashi Kapoor ) says, “Mere paas Maa hai”.

Amitabh, Prakash Mehra, Manmohan Desai and the angry young man image. Those days romantic movies ruled the box office and Rajesh Khanna was the reigning superstar. Amitabh with Prakash Mehra’s Zanjeer started a new trend of “angry young man” and soon took over as the new superstar. He had 9 super hit movies each with Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai.

A little known trivia about Prakash Mehra and Amitabh is that they had gone to meet boxing icon Muhammed Ali in LA and Prakash wanted to make a movie starring Amitabh and Muhammed Ali together

Amitabh the singer . Some of his songs have attained cult status such as “Mere paas aao mere doston” from Mr Natwarlal. “Rang barse bheege chunar waali” from Silsila which incidentally was penned by his father is one of the most popular “Holi” songs of all time. Amitabh also sang the sad version of “Jidhar dekhoon teru tasveer” in Mahaan with Kishore Kumar singing the happy version. It indeed requires guts to sing a version of a song sung by Kishore himself and interestingly it was very much appreciated.

Happy 75th Birthday to the Legend.

 

 

 

 

The Legends Club, Mumbai

Famous Cricket writer-Commentator John Arlott formed the Master’s Club at the Oval in memory of Sir Jack Hobbs, who was known as “the Master”. Similarly veteran cricket Administrator Late Raj Singh Dungarpur who was BCCI and CCI President was instrumental in forming the “Legends Club” in Mumbai to honour the Cricketing Legends from India.

In 2002 Raj Singh attended a luncheon meeting of the Master’s Club which gave him the idea of forming the Legends Club in Mumbai. The club was launched on the birthday of Vijay Merchant on October 12, 2003 and comprises a group of cricket lovers who meet and celebrate the birthdays of legends.

The prestigious Cricket Club of India has agreed to be the venue host for such meetings.If the legend is a living legend he too is invited to attend the function and depending on availability he often does.

Leading sportsmen are invited to address the audience and at the end of the address there is a question answer session as well and members of the audience are also asked to speak about the Legends.

For instance, recently Sunil Gavaskar who could not come on his own function came for the birthday celebration of Vinoo Mankad and gave a brilliant speech. He also addressed questions from the audience alomg with fellow panelists Ajit Wadekar and Madhav Apte who is the current President of the Club.

The three original Icons of the Legends club were Vijay Hazare, Vijay Merchant and Vinoo Mankad. Vijay Hazare of course was the 1st Indian to score twin centuries in a Test, that too against the team known as “The Invincibles”. Vijay Merchant with 71.64 has the 2nd highest batting average in 1st class cricket after Don Bradman with 95.14. Vinoo Mankad is of course one of the greatest all rounders of all time.

The next 3 cricketers to become Icons of the Legends Club were Sunny Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev. Finally the decision was taken to induct a non-cricketer as an Icon and the honour went to Badminton Legend Nandu Natekar.

The rock behind Legends Club is the President Madhav Apte, a young 85 year good humoured and knowledgeable ex-cricketer. He had played 7 Tests and had the honour not only to be coached by Vinoo Mankad but to also open for Tests with him. He had an average of 49 and was mysteriously dropped.

Madhav Apte has given the club a formal structure with a constitution, granted membership to cricket lovers, identity cards and he presides over meetings with  his customary charm. Other regulars are Ajit Wadekar, Nari Contractor, Vasu Paranjpe, Jatin Paranjpe, Shishir Hattangadi and noted commentator Milind Wagle.

The lectures and question-answer session are followed by dinner. There are 7 functions on the birthdays of these 7 icons.

If your interest is T20 Cricket, this is not for you. If your interest is glamour aspect of cricket then too Legends Club is not for you. But if you are interested in the longer format of the game, namely Test matches and have an interest in cricket history and would like to hear greats of the game speak about Legends then you would like to attend a meeting at the Legends Club, Mumbai.

 

Why Murray in Big 4 ? Why Stan not in Big 5?

Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are popularly known as the Big-4 of tennis. Now the number of Grand Slams ( Majors) won is a fair and acceptable point to determine the proficiency of a tennis player. The number of Majors won by these 4 are 19, 16, 12 and 3.

However another champion Stan Wawrinka too in recent times has also won 3 Majors. Accordingly why the big 4 should not be an extended big 5 by including Wawrinka as well.

Before discussing whether Stan can join them a comparison between Murray and Stan would help – to decide whether Stan can join the Big 4 and whether Murray should be in it.

Stan’s 3 Grand Slams were won by defeating the then current World Number 1 which makes the achievement even more stupendous. He defeated Rafa in the 2014 Australian Open and Novak in the 2015 French Open and the 2016 US Open.

However apart from these 3 fantastic performances Stan just has a solitary other Major final appearance which was against Rafa in the 2017 French Open Final where Rafa steamrolled him in straight sets. He has entered semifinals of Majors only 3 more times at the US Open in 2013 and 2015 and the Australian Open in 2015.

Stan has also won a solitary Masters 1000 and is the runners-up only thrice more. His total tournament wins are 16 comprising of 3 Majors, 1 masters, 3 ATP 500 and 9 ATP 250 Tournaments.  Total tournament finals are 28 and final losses are 1 in the Majors, 3 at the Masters, 5 in ATP 500 and 7 in ATP 250.

At the Olympics Stan has won the doubles gold once with Federer in 2008 and has been part of a Davis Cup winning team once as well with Federer playing an important role.

Lets look at what Murray has done in comparison.  Murray like Stan has won 3 Majors. While Stan has total 16 tournament wins, Murray has 45, the break-up being 3 Grand Slams, 1 year end Championships, as many as 14 Masters 1000, 2 Olympic Gold medals, 9 ATP 500 and 16 ATP 250.

 Murray’s with 14 Masters wins is as high as all time 9th and only greats like Novak (30) , Rafa (30), Fed (26), Lendl (22), Mcenroe (19), Connors (17), Agassi (17) and Borg (15) are ahead of him.  More important, greats like Becker, Edberg and Sampras have less than him. In Comparison Stan has just 3 Masters and even lesser known players like Andrei Medvedev and Juan Carlos Ferrero with 4 have more. In fact as many as 27 players have 4 or more Masters 1000 titles while Stan has 3.

Similarly in comparison to Stan’s overall 28 finals, Murray has as many as 67. More importantly he has also reached as many as 11 Finals ( 3 wins) in Majors and 21 Masters finals ( 14 wins). This is far superior to Stan’s performances.

It is also a pertinent stat that of his 22 Finals losses, 15 are to Fed or Rafa or Novak. Of his 8 losses in the Grand Slams , 3 losses are to Federer and 5 to Djokovic. Curiously Andy and Rafa have not met at a Grand Slam final. His 3 wins in Majors include 2 against Novak and one against Raonic.

At the Masters too, of his 7 losses in finals , 5 are against Novak and 1 against Rafa. The only member not of top 3 who has defeated him in a Masters final is Cilic. Murray has also defeated Novak 5 times in Masters finals and has also defeated Fed twice and incredibly has a clay court Masters win over Rafa at Madrid Open.

Murray’s 2 Olympic Golds were won with wins over Federer and Del Potro. He also spectacularly featured in Great Britains victorious 2015 Davis Cup campaign where he won 3 matches for his team ( both singles and doubles) in each and every round to lead his team to a Davis Cup triumph after 79 years.

One final comparison where Murray is way ahead of Stan  is wins over top ten players. Murray has as many as 101 while Stan has 50. Of Murray’s 82 losses versus top 10 players as many as 56 are against Fed (14), Novak (25) and Rafa (17) which shows that in his entire career he has a 72-26 win-loss position against other top ten players. He also has 11 wins each against Federer and Novak and 7 versus Rafa which in itself is no mean feat. In contrast Stan’s record against all three is worrying with him having a 3-20 head to head against Federer and 5-19 versus Novak and 3-16 versus Rafa.

The above analysis shows that though Stan and Murray have 3 wins each in the Majors, the achievements of Murray are way ahead and therefore there is no way that he can be included in an extended Big 5

However Murray has had extraordinary consistent performances since 2008 including winning 8 of his 1st 10 Masters finals between 2008-2011. His spectacular performance in the 2nd half of 2016 which took him to world Number 1 and ended with a win over Novak in the year ending championships has also shown he is a worthy entrant of the Big 4 club.

Do you agree.

Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad- on the Cusp of (more) pace history

During the forthcoming Ashes tour, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad will become the first pace twins to feature in 100 Tests together – something no fast-bowling pair has achieved before in the history of Test cricket.
Anderson and Broad have 737 wickets together in their 96 Tests, offering a chance to become the most successful pace duo in history, overtaking Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh’s 762 wickets in their 95 Tests.Both pairs have a strike rate of 56.15, however Ambrose-Walsh have an average of 22.68, while Anderson-Broad’s is 27.35.
What makes the Pommie pair click could be that Anderson is more skiddy and swings the ball prodigiously, whereas Broad uses bounce. Ambrose too used awkward bounce, while Walsh had a similar method with a different style.
Generally, fast bowling tandems are also friends off the field. The exception being maybe Waqar and Akram , but then Wasim said their dislike of each other made them want to out do the other.
But let’s have a more detailed look at the Anderson and Broad.
Anderson started his ODI career in 2002, when he was only 20, then played Test cricket a year later, taking five wickets in an innings in his first match. His debut was at Lord’s, which remains a happy hunting ground, picking up 90 wickets there – a record for any fast bowler at one venue. Anderson has taken five wickets in an innings at Lord’s five times, with only Ian Botham’s eight surpassing that stat.
Anderson is only one of six bowlers to take 500 Test wickets. He has five wickets in an innings 24 times and taken ten wickets in a match three times. His best bowling figures are 7-42, achieved recently versus West Indies. Previously, his best figures were 7-43, against New Zealand at Trent Bridge in 2008.  It is a tribute to his longevity that he achieved his best figures in the last of his 129 Tests so far.
As a batsman, Anderson is probably the best Number 11 in history. He not only has 81 as a highest Test score, he has also played the longest innings by a number 11 in Test history.
Stuart Broad is the son of dour batsman Chris Broad. Yuvraj Singh fans know him as the fast bowler who was hit for six 6s in an over in the T20 World Cup. However, as a Test bowler, Broad is a different story. Debuting at unforgiving Colombo in 2007, with 1-95 in 36 while Sri Lanka piled up 548, was soon forgotten. Broad shone as a super supporting cast to Anderson and at times outshone him as well.
In his 109 Tests, Broad has picked up 388 wickets, with five wickets in an innings 15 times, and ten wickets in a match twice. His best bowling was his 8-15, singlehandedly bowling out Australia for 60 on the first morning of the Test match at Trent Bridge in the 2015 Ashes – a match in which Anderson did not play.
Broad also has two Test match hattricks, one against India and one against Sri Lanka.
As Anderson has the highest Test score by an Englishman at No.11, Broad has the highest Test score for an English No.9. His huge 169 at Lord’s came after his side’s number four, five and six fell for ducks.Broad also has ten Test 50s – as long as he is at the crease, bowling sides cannot breathe easy.
If there is any question about the English pair, it’s that while at home they take a wicket every 51 (Anderson) and 53 (Broad) deliveries, abroad it increases to 67 and 66.
Australia will be hoping this trend continues.

 ( This blog was published by both leading Odia Daily Pragativadi and also by Aussie sports community “the Roar” )

Review of Laver Cup 2017

Laver Cup’s much anticipated inaugural edition between Europe and World was played from September 22 to 24, 2017 at Prague, Europe.The captains of Europe were legends Bjorn Borg and John Mcenroe. They will remain captains for the 1st 3 editions.

The tournament will be played every year, alternating between Europe and USA. In an Olympics year it will not be held,  respecting the Commitment for tennis to remain as an Olympic sport.

In its interesting format day 1 matches would have 1 point each, day 2 matches would have 2 points each and day 3 matches would have 3 points each. Therefore in all probability strategy would suggest that the Captains would hold back the topmost players for day 2 and 3.

Day 1

Not unsurprisingly therefore, neither Rafa nor Federer were seen on day 1. The 1st match saw Cilic take on Tiafoe, Del Potro’s last minute replacement. Cilic won in straight sets 7-6 7-6 with Tiafoe showing flashes of breathtaking shotmaking but in vain.

Europe 1 World O

Next Thiem took on Isner and won the 1st set 7-6, Isner took the second at 7-6. As per the tournament rules instead of a 3rd set, there would be a match tie-break with the 1st player to reach 10 points winning the match. Isner raced to a 4 nil lead but Thiem came back strongly to win the match 7-6 6-7 (10-7).

Europe 2 World 0

Match 3 saw Zverev defeat Shapovalov 7-6 7-6. Europe 3 World Nil

The final match of the day saw Rafa on court but in doubles. Rafa-Berdych lost the 1st set 3-6 to Kyrgios-Sock but fought back to take the second set to with a 9-7 win in the second set tiebreak. Briefly it seemed as if Europe will win their 4th match but Sock-Kyrgios held their nerves to win the match tiebreak 10-7.

Day 1 ended with Europe 3 points to World 1.

Day 2 ( Each match 2 points)

Federer said he was tired cheerleading for 8 hours on day 1. However it did not reflect in his tennis. Federer comfortably outplayed Sam Querrey 6-4 6-2. He then said he wanted to quickly shower and get back to cheerleading Rafa whose match was next.

Europe 5  World 1

Match 2 saw Rafa take the 1st set comfortably at 6-3 but lose the next at 3-6 before he rallied deep into his inexhaustible resources of energy and fighting nature to win the match tiebreak 11-9.

Europe 7 World 1.

In match 3 between hometown favorite Berdych and Kyrgios, Berdych took an early break and comfortably served out the set. Kyrgios however served well to take the 2nd set to a tiebreaker which he won. Kyrgios however won the match tiebreak 10-6 and give World 2 much needed points. Europe 7 World 3

The final match of day 2 was definitely the most awaited match of the entire tournament. Federer and Rafa were playing doubles for the 1st time against Sock and Querrey. In the 1st set Roger’s lack of match doubles play was evident but Rafa upped his game including serves, volleys and solid play from the back of the court to take the set 6-4.  However bad play by both legends saw them lose the second set 1-6. The match tiebreak however saw them win all the relevant points to comfortably win it 10-5.

Europe 9 World 3. The highlight of the match was Rafa’s defy volleys and the wonderful personal chemistry between the two legends

Therefore at the end of day 2 Europe were just 2 wins away from winning the Laver Cup 2017. With Rafa and Fed both slated to play singles it seemed easy.

Day 3

With day 3 matches having 3 points each a seemingly unassailable lead of 9-3 for Europe suddenly became 9-6 as Isner and Sock played inspired doubles to win against Berdych and Cilic 7-6, 7-6. However Zverev restored Europe’s lead with a comfortable 6-4, 6-4 win over Querrey and Europe were 12-6 ahead.

Rafa was expected to win easily over Isner, but the giant American played inspired tennis to upset Rafa 7-5, 7-6 ( 7-1).

Now it all came to the last match. If Federer would win it then Europe would be champions but if Nick would win it then it would go into a deciding doubles.

Nick started strongly by winning the 1st set 6-4, however Federer levelled the match by winning the second set 7-6 (8-6). In the match tiebreak Kyrgios was ahead and it looked like he would win but somehow an inspired Federer pulled off some winners to take the tiebreak 11-9 and hence Europe lifted the Laver Cup. Rafa’s animated support for Federer was something which will remain in memory for a long time.

Overall Laver Cup was a huge success especially with the points format retaining interest right till the last match . The only thing i did not like about the tournament was the dull grey colour of the courts. Otherwise the format was very exciting. Potentially with lot of discussion about fading interest for Davis Cup, maybe this format is something Davis Cup Organisers may consider looking at..

 

 

 

Lacoste and his fellow Musketeers

The entire world has heard of Lacoste tee shirts and the Lacoste clothing line. Many of us wear them too. Do we know who introduced them ?

Tennis champion Jean Rene Lacoste did so in 1929. The American press nicknamed Lacoste “the crocodile” after he said he had been promised a crocodile-skin suitcase if he won an important match. His game being relentless in nature, the nickname appealed to tennis fans. Later, his friend Robert George designed a crocodile and sewed it onto his blazer and it became Lacoste’s trademark. It still is, and the famous short-sleeved cotton tee-shirts are much loved everywhere.

Lacoste was one of 4 French Tennis champions who are collectively known as the 4 Musketeers, after the principal characters in Alexandre Dumas’s book “The Three Musketeers”.

These 4 Musketeers of tennis collectively won 20 Grand Slam singles titles and 23 Grand Slam doubles titles. They also featured in 6 Davis Cup wins in a row. Not only did they stop a 6 year title run of USA in 1927, the Frenchmen had a 6 year run of their own.

Lets know more about them.

Jean Rene Lacoste

World No.1 player in 1926 and 1927, Lacoste won as many as 7 Singles Grand Slams with 3 French Open wins, and 2 each at Wimbledon and US Open. He was part of the 1927 and 1928 victorious Davis Cup team. He had 3 Grand Slam Doubles titles as well

Apart from the tennis tee-shirt, Lacoste had 2 major contributions. He invented the 1st hand-cranked ball machine for tennis practice. In the 1960’s he invented the steel tennis racket and over the next two decades wooden rackets got eliminated altogether.

Henri Cochet

World No.1 player from 1928 to 1931 Cochet was a ball-boy and the son of a tennis club’s groundkeeper. The President of the Club recognised his talent and volunteered to coach him for free, starting a memorable journey.

Cochet too like Lacoste won 7 Grand Slam singles, winning the French Open 4 times, Wimbledon twice and the US Open once. He had 5 Doubles wins at the Slams and featured in all the 6 Davis Cup triumphs from 1927 to 32.

Jean Borotra

Jean was called “the Bounding Basque”. He reached a high of world No.2 and won 4 Grand Slam singles titles winning Wimbledon twice and the French Open and US Open once each. He was also in the Victorious Davis Cup team from 1927 to 1932 and won Grand Slam Doubles as many as 9 times. As a tennis player, unlike his peers he believed in the volley. He reached the net fast and trusted himself to win points with angled volleys.

Jean’s competitor Bill Tilden called him “God of galleries and devil of the players”. He used to have lot of antics like whipping up the passion of fans by exhorting them  football match style to clap for him. He often hit tennis balls wildly and would jump into the crowds to kiss the hands of lady spectators he had disturbed. He would also fling his trademark black beret at any lady spectator he found attractive. He was indeed a character.

Borotra was arrested by the Gestapo and survived life in a German Concentration Camp. At one point of time he was subjected to pentathol (truth serum) and kept in solitary confinement for 6 months. He escaped the German castle which was his prison, passed through German lines by posing as a dim-witted peasant, swam across a river and returned with American reinforcements to win the castle for the Allies.

Jacques “Toto” Brugnon

Toto was primarily a doubles specialist who was a Grand Glam Doubles champion as many as 10 times and losing Grand Slam finalist 7 times as well. He also featured in 5 Davis Cup winning teams. As a singles player his achievments were much more modest. He reached world no.9 only once and only a solitary Wimbledon semi final.

The Four Musketeers were inducted together into the Hall of Fame in 1976.

Coming back to Lacoste, it is said that he turned himself into a world champion through determination, training and fitness. He preferred playing from the baseline and everything served or volleyed or hit to him was returned back , so much so he was called the “human ball-machine”.

In contrast, Borotra preferred to reach the net and volley which was considered too risky an endeavour those days with hardly anyone trying the same. Brugnon of course was a doubles specialist while Cochet had a languid and unhurried manner. He played tennis at such a relaxed pace that he could hardly reach the net, and thereby he made the half volley his patented shot. It is said that his relaxed play and disinterested appearance masked his fierce competitiveness.

The 4 Musketeers were different personalities with different contrasting playing styles. The world of tennis is richer with the presence of such legends.

( This blog has been published by the leading Odia Daily “Pragativadi” and Australian sports community “the Roar” )

Preview of Laver Cup 2017

In honour of one of the greatest players ever in the world of tennis, the inaugural Laver Cup will be held at Prague between Europe and rest of the world.

Legend Bjorn Borg will be the captain of Europe while John Mcenroe will be captain of rest of the world. Thomas Enqvist will be Borg’s vice-captain while Patrick Mcenroe will be his brothers deputy. Patrick of course has his own identity as the longest serving Davis cup captain in US Davis Cup history. Enqvist who had risen to world no.4 says he took up playing tennis as Borg was his idol.

Team Europe will consist of Nadal, Federer, Zverev, Thiem, Cilic and Berdych. Team Rest of the world will have DelPotro, Jack Sock, John Isner, Sam Querrey, youngster Denis Shapovalov and the incredibly talented but mercurial Nick Kyrgios.

The Europe team will have Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal playing together and Roger Federer has said he is excited about both playing with Nadal and being captained by Borg.

Lets quote Federer on Borg, as reported in Tennis World USA.

“For me to spend time with Bjorn, it’s quite rare. He doesn’t spend so much time on the tour. When he shows up, it’s short. I feel every minute you get with him is a privilege. Here we are, he’s going to be stuck with us. So it’s going, I think, to be very special for all of us, particularly me. I mean, I have incredible respect for him. I feel like if I could play one player ever going back, I feel like it would be Bjorn. I feel he’s that incredibly good, for what he did for the game. If I look how he played, what he brought to it, it’s crazy.”

Federer is excited about playing with Rafa instead of against him. The King says,

“Rafa’s been such a wonderful champion and a good friend of mine on the tour, one of my big rivals for life, that it’s just nice to be able to spend some time with him and support him. If I can help him, great. If he can help me, even better. Finally, after all these years, I get a chance to actually support his forehand, his aggressive play, his everything, his fighting spirit. Everything before was always like, ahh, another forehand and another fighter.”

The 3 day exhibition tournament will have 4 matches every day including a doubles match as well. Each match will be a best of 3 sets. However if a match goes to the 3rd set, it will be a tiebreaker of ten instead of a full set.

Though its an exhibition tournament the rules are quite fair and transparent. As regards selection, 4 of the 6 players are automatic selections as per ATP rankings while 2 are picked by the legendary captains. Borg and Mcenroe will be captain for 3 years each and then we will have new captains. The tournament will be played alternatively between Europe and USA as hosts and will be an annual affair except on Olympic years when it will not be played.

The winner will be decided by an interesting scoring system. Day 1 matches have 1 point each, while Day 2 has 2 points and day 3 matches have 3 points each. The 1st team to reach 13 points will win the Laver Cup. If both teams are level at 12 each a final 5th match will be played on the 3rd day. Each of the 6 will have to play at least one singles match on all the three days and no one can play more than 2 singles match in total. At least 4 of the 6 will have to play at least 1 doubles match. A doubles team cannot be repeated.

The interesting rules and scoring pattern will surely see the tactical acumen of both captains being stretched. With the quality of both teams one can surely expect a terrific tournament. Looking forward to it. My prediction is that with both Rafa and Fed in the same team , Team Europe will emerge the victors.

Looking forward to a great inaugural laver Cup 2017.

This Blog has been published by Leading Odia daily “Pragativadi” and Leading Australian sports community “The Roar”

 

 

 

US Open 2017 reviewed Hollywood Style.

US Open, the last Major ( Grand Slam) of the Year is one of the oldest tournaments of history.  What started in 1881 as the US National Championship is now an incredible 136 years young and still going strong.

Since US Open is in USA and so is Hollywood, here is my review of the 2017 edition from a Hollywood perspective.

Change of Star cast. 

2 time Champion Djokovic, defending champion Wawrinka , former Champion Murray and former finalist Nishikori were top 10 players who did not figure in the draw. However their absence was not majorly felt with sterling performances seen from others.

Intrigue and conspiracy

World number 1 and 3 Rafa and Federer were the sentimental favorites. However only 5 ATP Points separated Federer from Number 2 Murray. Since the US Open organisers consistently seed players as per rankings, Federer was seeded 3 and Murray was second seed. That meant a 50% chance that Rafa and Fed would meet in the semis and Tthe draw turned out that way only. Ironically, Murray then pulled out and Rafa-Fed fans were livid that the chance of these two Greats of meeting in the final was sabotaged by Murray.

In Murray’s defence he said he tried to be fully fit and when he finally knew he was not fit enough to win the tournament, he opted out.

Further there was no guarantee that Federer and Murray will actually both reach the semifinals or if they had been drawn on opposite side, the finals. Ultimately they didnt of course.

While finally it was inconsequential it made for interesting discussion.

Suspense and Romance

In their incredible rivalry, Federer and Nadal had never ever met at the US Open. The prospect of their meeting up in the semi-finals for 1st time ever here was romantic and to add suspense to romance, the winner would be the world number 1.

To meet up they would have to win 5 matches each. Would they ? The suspense continued with Federer just managing to win his 1st 2 matches in tough 5 setters. Rafa though was winning comfortably. They won 2 each, then 3 each, then 4 each. Then Rafa won his quarter final. Out of the requirement of 10 matches, 9 was done. Surely Federer would win his, but no. He lost his quarter final to the Argentine giant Del Potro and that meant that their awaited meet-up at US Open would remain awaited, possibly it may never happen.

Mother of all comebacks, sequels and Bromance

Del Potro had won the 2009 US Open by defeating both Federer and Nadal, an extremely rare feat which only Djokovic  had done as well. Del Potro who has battled injury issues for several years now had a chance to be the 1st man to do this twice when he defeated Federer in the quarter final and took a 1 set lead versus Rafa. However Rafa comfortably won the next 3 to put an end to DelPo’s hope.

In the 4th round, Del Potro was recovering from viral fever and quickly lost 2 sets to Thiem 1-6, 2-6. He laer said he considered quitting during the 2nd set. However he somehow stayed on and in an incredible comeback ( one of the best in recent times) won in 5 sets. Along the journey he saved 2 match points with aces.

Delpo had defeated Federer to deny him an US Open title. They met in the sequel 8 years later. The script remained the same. DelPo won.

Bromance with Federer was seen with the King nicknaming him “Thor”. Indeed Del Potro was like Thor but in the final came up against Rafa who made Thor a human again by defeating him in 4 sets, with the final 3 sets coming very very easily for DelPo.

David winning versus Goliath, and emergence of new talents

This was a recurring feature of the 2017 US Open. Lesser ranked players defeated their higher ranked higher favoured opponents. The 1st day itself saw 4 seeded players , namely Sock, Ferrer, Khachanov and Haase losing. The 3rd day was a virtual bloodbath with as many as 7 seeds losing. Prominent among them were Zverev, Kyrgios and Tsonga.

Zverev especially was a big shock as with no stan and djo and Murray in one half and Fed-Rafa in the other it was a golden chance for him to not just make a big splash but enter his 1st Slam Final. He however could not make the best of it and lost to 20 year Croat Borna Coric. For Coric it was the 2nd important win of the year after his straight set win over Murray at Madrid and he is one of the players to watch out for the future.

Prominent success stories of the tournament

The tiny 5’7 Diego Schwartzmann  defeated  former Champion Cilic and also another top player Licas Pouille * winner over Rafa in the 2016 edition) to enter the Quarter Final. He finally lost to Busta in the Quarter-finals

Qualifier Denis Shapopalov captured the imagination of the crowd , especially with his win over Tsonga. The 18 year teen finally lost in straight sets to Busta in the 4th round, but with all the 3 sets going to tiebreaks, he will have hopes for the future. Ranked 200 a few months back, he is poised to enter the top 50 of the rankings.

Russian Andrey Rublev also shone, reaching the quarter finals where he lost to Nadal. During his journey he toppled among others the 7th seed Dimitrov and the 9th seed Goffin both in straight sets. He too is a star of the future.

Busta reaching the semi-finals and Kevin Anderson reaching the finals were major success stories as well.

The Nice Guy winning in the end

Rafa Nadal had an amazing tournament. He lost just 3 sets in his 7 matches, but at no point of time he looked like losing a match. He had straight set wins over Lajoviv in the 1st round, Dolgopolov in the 4th , Rublev in the quarters and Anderson in the finals. The only sets he lost were one each to T.Daniel in the 2nd round, L.Mayer in the 3rd and Del Potro in the semi-finals and interestinly all 3 matches he lost the 1st set before imperiously winning the next three.

By winning US Open 2017 , Rafa has won his 16th Major. He looks good for a few more. Vamos Rafa.

 

Review of “The Siddhu’s of Upper Juhu”

Quality Plays/theatre ideally should not be the monopoly of few places and cities. The makers should take them to different parts of the country/world since audience interest is definitely there. However sponsorship is a must and here corporates and HNI’s are required to step in. It is also important to spread the word around so that more and more people know about quality plays/drama’s and interest increases.

In this context, i bring to you the review of the play “The Siddhu’s of Upper Juhu” which incidentally was taken to Bhubaneswar by a school friend of mine. I hope you like the review enough to see the play and other similar plays and write about them as well.

Rajit Kapoor, Shernaz Patel and Rahul Da Cunha are big names in theatre, and if one sees “The Siddhu’s of Upper Juhu” , one knows why. Playing a middleaged couple, Rajit and Shernaz  hold you spellbound throughout the 100 minutes duration of this play by their natural spontaneity. Rahul of course is the former ad-man turned threatre director who has several successful and highly acclaimed plays to his credit. .

Rajit plays Balwinder Siddhu, a Punjabi senior level private sector executive. Known as Bubbles he is married to Behroz, a Parsi lady, played by Shernaz. Bubbles and Shernaz stay on the 14th floor of a sea-facing flat in Upper Juhu, Mumbai, which sounds great, but is not, which one discovers as the play progresses

Bubbles and Behroz being a Punjabi-Parsi couple is pertinent to mention since in this entire play, the audience is taken through the various gamut of socio-economic problems faced by the country and the city of Mumbai, and more than once the question of their Punjabi-Parsi background is mentioned. One notes that the play has humour throughout which keeps the audience rolling in laughter but the problems and issues are very much there at the background.

Some typical Mumbai or rather large metro/city problems shown in a delightfully funny manner are as follows;

(i) Unwelcoming and quarrelsome neighbours, who are unknown strangers, known more by their occupation than their names, (ii) water crisis and coming back home to no water in taps and strike by water tanker association having to happen the same day (iii) electricity crisis affecting lifts and forcing resident members of an upscale society to walk up 14 floors, (iv) Security and theft issues, (v) exorbitant medical costs/doctor fees and so on.

Social issues raised are (i) unemployment (ii) underemployment (iii) problems of getting new job at 50 or so when the Employers can get younger people at half the salary (iv) work and personal stress contributing to mental depression and (v)the attitude of own family members including brothers/sisters to sudden financial crisis and so on.

One interesting sub-plot is the city of Mumbai itself and life in Mumbai. The director skilfully shows us how many invest their entire life savings in a flat but do not get to realise their dream, as the dream is more of a mirage. Yet, the city has so grown on you that you wish to stay on here and want to fight it out.

Terrific performances by both Rajit and Shernaz are seen. Rajit plays the role of an irritable man to pefection, so much so that audience is both upset with him for his boorish behaviour as well as sympathetic to him for his troubles. Shernaz plays his patient wife, who in her own way is a strong person, though normally she says yes to him on most matters, being deeply in love with him totally.

Direction by Rahul Da Cunha is awesome and the script is kept tight , with minute to minute control by the former ad-man turned threatre director who has several successful and highly acclaimed plays to his credit. .

This particular play is about life in general, which has both happiness as well as sadness and teaches us that though tribulations, one has to stick together and find alternatives and way forward. Therefore the play does end on a positive note with the couple seeking a new life together and an alternate occupation.

The play keeps on coming every few months and has been taken by its makers to various parts of India..

If you get a chance to see it, please do so.

( This blog has been published by Odia Daily Pragativadi)