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Monday, February 06, 2006

( I get a little bit closer...)

I am reasonably sure that in ancient Greece, there must have existed an anti-Sisyphus, someone who manages to drag his boulder a few inches up the hill against formidable forces, someone who made progress against odds and whose ascent was unwavering and unidirectional. And for the sports freak, it is a little disconcerting to have a player win when he is visibly way off his best.

The Fed won handily in the end after being stretched, and dare I say it, outplayed in the first two sets by a Cypriot. The latter has a bucolic charm about him ( despite spending most of his life in Paris) which I now realize to be the touchstone of modern sporting celeb-hood. The boisterous familial fans made a din disproportionate to their meagre numbers, and the adoring neutrals adopted him for one of their own. He played with skill and stamina beyond expectations throughout the tournamant, beat Stepanek, Roddick, Ljubicic & Nalbandian, all competent seeded performers in their own right. Not since a tawny teenager with unkempt curls who was roared on to the cries of Guga in the 1997 French have I seen a more popular crowdpuller. The Fed was precariously close to defeat against Haas, and Davydenko was desperately unlucky not to see off the top seed, who hung on and earned his seventh Grand Slam in double quick time. And yet one felt that this bloke was capable of much much more and I was boiling over with exasperation as he repeatedly erred on his first serve, missed shots and played distractedly and unimaginatively in the final. Giddap, Roger, fourteen is just a number !

Tears in heaven- the Fed was uncharacteristically tongue-tied and teary-eyed during the presentation ceremony—Rod Laver’s presence is enough to choke anybody up, and my surmise is that the vast majority were only too glad to see emotions from the great man. In an interview, he spoke of his intent to come to the net more when his mobility would reduce. I cannot imagine a sporting parallel- Warne saving up another tweeter, Woods a long drive, Bryant another baffling move—the mind boggles !

Finally, Amelie won and coming soon after Cjlisters has laid to rest all demons about nice girls not winning. One of the very few to boast of an allround game on the distaff side, Mauresmo profited from both Belgians crying off on physical grounds and while Cjlisters was barely mobile, those old phantasms of the fragile mind of Henin-Hardenne returned as she gave up in the final. Martina Hingis, about three kilos still overweight showed enough spunk to be considered a real threat on the WTA and I was glad to see her astounding court sense and peerless shot selection still intact.

China extended its sporting hegemony to another alien game when Zi Yan & Zheng Jie pulled off an epochal victory in the women’s doubles ousting the best that the world had to offer and after the triumph of Ting Li and Sun Tian-Tian at the 2004 Olympics, Asia could be the next big market for tennis. The duo deservedly won, besting the top seeds Stosur & Raymond as well as derailing my favourite pair in the quarters. In the past decade, Yayuk Basuki, Tamasugarn and the Japanese with Kimiko Date once ranked No.6 are the only Asians to have made a mark and we could do with many more, sans the Uzbeks and the Indian(s) !

The Bryans were insuperable but I thought I detected a loss of both spectator and player interest in the game, which doesn’t augur well at all and unlike the ladies, hardly any top male player participates in the event. Trying times ahead !

Peter Fleming was once asked who he considered to constitute the best doubles team and his only barely-saucy reply was John McEnroe and anybody. Certainly Mahesh Bhupathi appears to be well on his way to being a great in the mixed doubles circuit, and although he plans to continue his partnering the Swiss Miss- herself a dream doubles player, his wins with the delicate Hantuchova and the not-so-delicate Pierce are worth savouring.

The heat was killing and the entire annual calendar could fall apart if not remedied soon. When Nadal, Safin and Agassi return for the French, we may expect a more open draw –don’t quite think the Fed can win at Roland Garros just yet.


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