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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Going Gaga 

Ah yes, so that’s that, folks ! The last of those gangly imperfect heroes - adored, loved and revered by a forgiving public has limped off into the sunset. Hindered incessantly by the aftermath of a dodgy hip that simply refused to behave even post-surgery, Gustavo Kuerten tried and failed to be the player he once was, and announced his retirement after losing to Paul-Henri Mathieu at the French this week.

Born in Florianopolis, Brazil, Guga had his father die early when he was a child and cared indomitably for his younger brother, Guilherme who suffered from mental retardation and cerebral palsy, and who sadly died in 2007.
Three French Open titles do not justice to his game, laden with topspin and a flowing one-handed backhand, aided by an easy economy of movement and loose-limbed grace, thwarted only by a long-drawn moan-almost as interminable as young Nole’s ball-toss. I thought his best moment came when he beat Sampras and then Agassi on carpet in the Tennis Masters Cup in 2001 at Lisbon without breaking a sweat thus finishing the year as Number One.

So why was he the most popular player in the 1997-2003 period ? Never super-articulate, as he proved even in his last post-match interview, his charm came from his visibly good-natured goofiness, a very comfortable-in-my-skin demeanour and a sunny disposition that never appeared to wilt under the strain that professional tennis is wrought with. He made the audience believe that it was still possible to win without trying too hard and with a smile. And they identified, sweated and laughed with him. He was the boy next door who made good by following his dream and had fun while he made his millions. He is also just the sort of people to get into trouble once his career is over, if his on-court persona is anything to go by.

And in the blink of an eyelid, we suddenly entered the French without Justine Henin and her flawless one-handed backhand. The game is poorer for it.

That big fraud Somdev Dev Varman has just won something called the NCAA, thereby fuelling my curiosity on how exactly channels like the News Despite Tabloid Values are able to unerringly pick up the momentary beating of butterfly wings in the middle of nowhere but so consistently miss the elephant in the room in India.

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