Sunday, June 8, 2008

Oh Roger Roger….it’s not that difficult!!

It can’t get worse than this. Mind you, it’s not about clay, it’s not about the mononucleosis he contracted at the beginning of this year..and no, this time it’s not even about Rafa. Agreed that Rafa, as usual, played some magical shots. But even then this final is more about the lackluster performance of Roger Federer, ironically the world no.1 for last 4 years, than anything else.
As a Federer fan I have always believed that he is just one good performance away from that elusive French crown. But after such a horrible display I doubt whether that man himself believes that he can beat Rafa on clay or not. Today he was simply pathetic and pathetic is just not the adjective one dares to use for Roger’s game. Yet he left so little for Rafa to do that after he clinched the title, for 4th time in a row, there were no typical Rafael Nadal celebrations. Just hands in air and that was it. More than the spectators, more than Roger it was Rafa, I think, who was the most astonished one by the manner in which Roger faulted, faulted and again faulted and in the process handed him an easy title.
As I said earlier it’s not about the external factors. Those inner demons, they are not allowing Roger to play at his best. I seriously doubt whether he is able to imagine himself defeating Rafa on clay or not. Because that’s the first step. You got to believe & visualize yourself achieving your goal. Then only your discipline, hard work and regimentation will fall in place in order to make the execution possible. It pained so much when one after another he kept hitting those regulation winners in the net, when he consistently failed to score off his second serves. First or second, Roger Federer’s serve is regarded as one of the best on the men’s circuit. It is such a potent weapon that his serve alone made the difference in the last year’s Wimbledon final. Even if one discounts the difference in the pace of grass & clay surfaces, that serve is still extremely capable. But today he had completely lost it.
For a brief passage of play, though, in the second set he took control of the match. And he looked a totally different player. Finding incredible angles, putting the ball in the right places with pinpoint accuracy, he succeeded in raising false hopes. But as soon as he was broken in the 8th game of the 2nd set it looked as if he wasn’t interested anymore. His strokes, at best, can be described as wayward. He tried coming to the net and few other tactics but those were desperate moves with no conviction whatsoever. Eventually he lost the third set 6-0!!
Agreed that you know tennis better than us, still Roger, you are better than that man..much much better!!

What a beautiful Queen!

In this year’s final at Roland Garros Ana Ivanovic showed that what happened last year was just another instance of nerves and inexperience getting better of ability. And she knew this. That’s why even after the drubbing she got at the hands of Justine Henin she sounded optimistic. There was no shame, no inferior feeling, just the honest realization that the stage was too big for her. But not this time around. She was prepared for it, both mentally and physically.
After literally crushing all her opponents en route to the semi-final (she won her fourth round match 6-0, 6-0! ) she had to fight hard against her fellow Serbian Jelena Jankovic in the semis. However, I think, that magnificent effort (in the semi-final) might even have helped in removing any trace of complacency that can get into the system after so many easy wins. So in the final she was calm and composed, having been there before and played with such an assurance that her victory seemed the only possible outcome.
Ana Ivanovic appears, to me, quite a mesmerizing character. This year she has made it to the finals of both the majors and it is apparent that she is moving more briskly on the court than she was moving last year. Her improved court coverage is a solid proof of this. It shows the amount of physical effort she has put in to get herself into right shape and this has provided certain fluidity to her game. Also the forehand winners have become more powerful & accurate and hence an extremely deadly weapon. So, as a player, one can see the maturity in her game that has inspired her to the recent success. At the same time she is graceful enough to appreciate fine play by her opponent (when she applauded Safina’s drop shot and subsequent winner) even if the match is as crucial as a grand slam final. That goes on to show her confidence and self-belief and the respect she has for the game. So much about Ana Ivanovic, the player.

Then comes the most fascinating aspect of Ana Ivanovic, the 20 year old girl. When you are admiring the improved and mature Ana Ivanovic, the player, she enthralls you with that tantalizing swirl with one leg lifted in air accompanied by a shriek and a clenched fist that you simply fall in love with that innocent gesture of triumph. Only then one realizes how sweet tastes success! Even when she is addressing press or in her acceptance speech her manner, voice and her choice of words betrays her girlish charm making difficult to imagine her as a hard hitting tennis player.

Oh yes, about the runner-up, Dinara Safina. My heart ached for her. She had shown immense mental strength and tremendous physical fitness to reach the finals. She had turned two matches on their head and emerged victorious from the brink of defeat. That too against a player as tenacious as Maria Sharapova and then against vastly experienced Elena Demetieva. After such exhausting encounters she had enough power left in store to answer the groundstrokes of Svetlana Kuznetsova in the semis. But the final was played as if Ana was destined to win. When Ana was finding the lines just marginally, Dinara’s strokes were landing just outside without fail. Tough luck gal! But she showed lot of guts and tremendous confidence, even in a losing cause and I think with this year’s performance she has come out of the shadow of her mercurial elder brother. Next year,I hope, she does an Ivanovic and adds to the grand slam tally of the Safins.
Returning to Ana, with the unexpected retirement of reigning world no.1 Justine Henin, the no.1 spot was up for the grabs & there were quite a few eager contenders. However with her grand slam winning performance Ana has ensured that when she is crowned as the new no.1 she has a major in her kitty too. So on the coming Monday women’s tennis gets a new queen and, gosh, what a beautiful Queen!