Brilliant return of serves, exquisite passing shots and the consistent control. Murray on his way to his second but heart with Raonic. Still. #wimbledon2016

There is no joy in lawn tennis if we take Wimbledon out from the equation. Ever since my growing years, my dearness for ‘The All England Club’ has only intensified – even though am not the same avid youngster who used to wait for 3rd of June to come soon. Especially, after witnessing all the faltering in the land of clay. There is a sublime reason to it as well, since players and spectators have unanimously shown their fondness for the green.

I am more of a classic guy and love history, more significantly since the game, players and their aura keep changing. I developed a keen sense of interest in the adulation this venue garnered for the sport in itself. The open era remained, quite oblivious, to our generation but the achievements and the glory was read, grasped, admired. Rod Laver, for example. Players, great players, finesse players, star players. They will come and go but we will always remember the ones who were lucky enough to lift the gorgeous trophy in Centre Court, kiss them, kiss them again, keep kissing them, stand for the media and press, then take a lap of victory before the sun goes down.

A major throwback – Boris Becker’s first in 1985 as ‘Boom Boom’ Becker and his shock upset in 1987 by Peter Doohan. The cool, suave Stefan Edberg and the art of ‘Serve & Volley’, Agassi – the fighter and the best return of serves in the game. Sampras’s straight second title beating Goran Ivanisevic – scoreboard read 7-6,7-6,6-0. Ivanisevic’s first and only Grand Slam victory as a wild card entrant, the iconic rivalry between Sampras and Agassi. The charm of Gabriela Sabatini, class of Steffi Graf and resilience of Monica Seles.

This is the Wimbledon story I was possessed and grew up with. The game evolved since then, is less of grace and more of power. But with modern greats like Federer, Rafa and Djokovic, the art of tennis is always blooming with enormous talent and the promise of keeping the art alive.

Who will conquer 2016? Let’s wait, watch and enjoy the moments that encapsulate on the green grass.

As good as it gets

Grand Slams happen every year, champions get crowned, the vanquished gets paranoid before embracing normalcy and the next year is ready to come.
But for one that swears fascinating blend of charisma and top notch performances, a grand slam seldom braces such menace in abundance. That’s Wimbledon for you.

I dont recollect my last outing when I watched a men’s Wimbledon final at the imperious All England Club, thanks to my prophecy of withstanding priorities. Yes, truly, and indeed, I loved Wimbledon since my younger days and could give any statistician a run for his money. Perhaps, I will come back to this a bit later.

Watching Djokovic demolishing Federer today, for me, in a way, is the beginning of a new generation and end of yet another glorious era. I spoke of the same eulogy when Federer ended Sampras’s reign as the numero uno of tennis world, way back in 2001 as a curious yet talented 19 year old chap. World moves on, so does tennis and so inevitably does Wimbledon.
I know Federer did say that he loves the game and will continue but as they say, the strings wont produce the same music and not sure if we will see him in next year’s final. Yet, fingers crossed.

I dont think Federer played terrible tennis, though his 10+ unforced errors and blemished first servers were an indication of the man who wasn’t at his best, your body cannot respond with the same reflexes and vigour after 17 grand slams and 14 years at the top of the world. I just thought Djokovic was brilliant. His madness from the baseline, his accurate and powerful first serves, the passion to dominate the nets and his demeanour of furious collage – I saw all the makings of a future champion. And, sure to stay.
Some of his return of serves were bullet hits breezing past a giant of a player, and couple of passing shots will hit through me till next June. He was a bit ruffled when he lost the second set, I thought Federer fought back like a lion but a player of his stature cannot rest on missed opportunities. And, as anticipated, he came back roaring. In fact, he was never quite in danger of losing his serve and always looked towering enough to break Federer each time he pledged to retain his serve.

Coming back to my obsession with Wimbledon.
I can safely say that I grew up watching players like Sampras and Rafter. Honestly, I still keep saying that there will never be another ‘Pistol’ Pete to shoot the temperatures up. In fact, a notch higher and loved watching Boris Becker (his collaboration with Djokovic is reaping dividends) play. An era of the serve and volley, players like Borg, Lendl, Mcnroe, Becker, Edberg were great exponents of the skilful game. Its a dying art today, but thought the game kind of revived charm with likes of Sampras, Agassi, Rafter, Ivanisevic (probably the wild one of this lot). Still remember Sampras finals with Ivanisevic and Agassi, even Rafter. If one was raw power, the other was precision and grit. Agassi, was a combination of craziness and gloating talent. Such was the enormity of players then, though I admit that have not been following the contemporary quite frivolously as I would have loved to. Reliving them after all these years kind of brings the ‘me’ in me.

This year, gloriously, has been rewarding for the Indian scene in Wimbledon. 3 back to back championship titles in 2 days for Leander and Sania, was thrilled to see the young lad come up trumps in the tussle of Boys. Leander has been our warhorse for years now and his accomplishment is one for those great Indian sporting stories we would like to talk about, often and more. Pleasing sight!

Ironic to say, when I visited Wimbledon couple of months back and was basking in the place reminiscent of some great following of the sport and its history, I was kind of disappointed that we didn’t have much of Indian presence to rave about. I thought India as a nation is boggled with enormous talent and sporting abilities, and this is one place we would like to stamp an authority on. In fact, the lady we got as a guide quickly exclaimed that they would love to see an Indian Champion soon, not sure about hers but my prayers have been answered, would love to visit her again and pay the compliments with due usherness.

In Wimbledon, it only gets greener every year.

The All England Club: Aura of encore..


Not that I have been immersed with this beautiful game over the last few couple of years (or perhaps even more), but Wimbledon has always blown me away with it’s charm.

It’s my pick amongst the 4 grand slams and inarguably, the most popular one amongst the people and critics alike. We need not be democratic here, and few would disagree but probably for me, synthetic surfaces never exuded the charisma of this legendary battlefield and clay courts were too slow for me to catch up with.

There was a time when I used track records and history of this game like a beehive; I have obviously lost touch but still try to keep up with it’s histrionics.

Every game has undergone transformation in the last 2-3 decades, and tennis has been no exception. Rod Laver used to epitomise class and gesture with his technical power play (Roy Emerson heralded this skill very early in the last century). Then came the era of exuberance and tenacity. Bjorn Borg was instrumental in installing his stamp all over the game in the one era; John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker took the game to a new planet. I was always a self confessed Becker admirer (till Sampras joined my books) and loved few of his extravagant strokes against legends like McEnroe and Edberg; he still remains the youngest unseeded Wimbledon champion in 1985. He went on to win couple of more and was indeed a pleasure to watch. Not to forget, our very own Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan have had some memorable moments to cherish in this lawn of eternal grass. It was the age of serve-and-volley players and the game looked elegant at it’s very best.

I am not done yet; as then arrived the era of an iconic Pete Sampras. You ask me and I would rate him as one of the greatest players to have ever graced game of tennis. His composure, awe inspiring game play and disciplined approach were stuff that legends are made of. He indeed, was one. And, he was not alone. Another all time great, the mercurial Andre Agassi would give him a run for his money. Trust me, their duels were worth negotiating for and their rivalry is counted amongst the finest. Jim Courier, Goran Ivanisevic, Patrick Rafter, Tim Henman were a part of the elite bandwagon but got overshadowed in the presence of the two powerhouses. Power and precision were hallmarks of this period of play and the game witnessed shift in gears. I still remember Becker’s statement after he lost his final Wimbledon encounter (I am unable to recollect the year but it must be during the early or mid nineties) at the summit clash to Pete: “I used to own this place, now he owns it”. Words usually describe expressions, this one told us the story of two great champions, one set to rule and the other bidding adieu in grace.

Since then, we have enjoyed the peerless Roger Federer and the ferociously talented Rafa at their best, and enthralling us with their ethereal stroke-play. We have to admit, their rivalry was never adequately challenged and their dominance in the last decade has remained undisputed, to say the least. With Djokovic’s triumph, I could sense a beginning of a new chapter in the annals of tennis history. Perhaps, more to come our way.

The names I talked about were immensely talented and in a league of their own in all surfaces, but most of them sizzled in grass courts and Wimbledon is the queen of all grand slams.

I am still considering myself to be a pale out-of-sync in terms of contemporary statistics, but come June and ‘The All England Club’ thwarts me to revive younger memories, of me and the game.

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