The phenomenal achievements of two men who six months before the Australian Open were barely able to walk and uncertain about playing top level tennis again, begs the question about what happens when they lay down their racquets. At 31, both injury plagued Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, notwithstanding their talent and achievements, are no spring chickens even if they have a few Grand Slams left in them. So is there a future for men’s tennis in the coming years? Will 18% of a country’s population ever again switch on their TV sets to watch a game of tennis once these men have retired?
Rafa didn’t know it yet, but I was in love. It didn’t matter that I was only one of 100 million who fell in love all over again that night; it didn’t matter that for the first time in our wedded life my wife and I were in love with the same man; it didn’t matter that the object of my affection would remain on the wrong side of a television screen for the length of our romance. All that mattered was that Rafa Nadal had walked into the lives of a hundred million besotted humans like me and tennis would never be the same again.
Nick is a changed man. He doesn’t tell umpires what kind of calisthenics they should indulge in beyond the tennis courts (Fognini does that now). He has been playing unbelievable tennis and almost took out Roger Federer in the Laver Cup and seemed to be finally truly enjoying the sport. He played tennis like I have been waiting to see from the next generation for the past few years, on his way to the runners-up position at the China Open. I had started the move past the centre to the right of the ‘Hate-Love Continuum’. My wife warned me against the danger. She said not to fall into the trap his mind-numbing talent lays for me every few months. She pointed out the signs when in the finals of the China Open glimpses of the Old Nick began to emerge on court. She said he would betray my trust, again. I told her the quality of linesmen in the tournament was abysmal so he is entitled to a little angst. Wives are always right. I should have listened to her.
From a year ago, when there did not seem to be a strong new group of players coming up who could give us the same pleasure as the current Big 4, today, suddenly, there is hope. As we look to the future, there appears to be reason to be optimistic that Alexander (Zverev), Borna (Coric) and Dennis (Shapopalov) may well be the ABD of tennis that gives us reason to continue watching and enjoying a supremely high quality of tennis.
The eyes of the nearly 10,000 members of the Jewish faith in India (and cricket-lovers like you and me) will, however, be on the cricket team which is determined to put up a good show and try their best to climb the peak that holds the medals of Gold, something that has eluded them thus far.
As the media meet ended at Monte Carlo, Nadal was asked one last question about what ten titles at Roland Garros would mean to him. He answered in three words before walking off with a smile. “I want it.”
26 years as a professional tennis player. 140 different doubles partners. 18 Grand Slam doubles titles. Five Asian Games gold medals, and one Olympics bronze. He is Leander Adrian Paes.
Nick Kyrgios’ eight-week suspension from the ATP for “perceived lack of effort” after the Shanghai Open last year, was followed immediately by a decision that attracted less attention at the time.
So what is it about these meltdowns? How can top teams with players in form and with an enormous reservoir of experience, collapse spectacularly under pressure? Is it just the pressure, is it a lack of application, experience, presence of mind? Or maybe these are just isolated examples in a cricketing world which by and far follows the script of ‘may the better team win’.
Craig McDermott, Chris Cairns, Adam Hollioake, Wally Hammond, Brian Statham and Tony Lock. It would be an extremely difficult question for the best quiz buff to answer, if asked for a common thread that links these cricketers of yore. For the answer is to be found well beyond the 22 yards and indeed the 90-yard boundary lines at the MCG or the Eden Gardens. The common thread that exists here is that all of the above fell into severe, and in certain cases, debilitating and life-threatening financial difficulties once their playing days were over.