One moment in Time

This was 1988. This was really when the sports bug hit me. I was 9.

Javier Sotomayor, Greg Louganis, Gabriela Sabatini, Steffi Graf, Kristin Otto, Carl Lewis, Ben Johnson, FloJo Joyner, Naim Soulemanoglu, Daniela Silivas, Yelena Shushounova, Matt Biondi, Christian Gross, Sergei Bubka, Evelyn Ashford, Petra Felke, Janet Evans, Rosa Mota…. and Whitney Houston.

1988.

A more innocent times.

The Olympics.

 

Whitney is no more. “One moment in time”, will live.

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Sachin

VVS goes. And Sachin comes in.

And pardon me for this stream-of-consciousness post… that’s the best i can manage now…

He comes in. Small man. Strong gait. Confident in his abilities, poised to his responsibilities, and comfortable in his achievements. Like we have seen him for almost all our lives.

It is indeed amazing that for almost all my life as a cricket follower, Sachin has been performing for the country, and it has taken me this long to warm up to him.

As I have mentioned so many times earlier, for a serious sports-lover, it is almost impossible to have a devoted Sachin-following mindset, he seems almost unreal.

Okay, sorry, I was speaking for myself here, I guess.

Tiger, Federer and Sachin. And of course Jordan, Pete and Steffi a generation back. Zizou. These are the immortals. They never fail. They never falter. They are not human.

They had honed the almost unbelievable talent that has been bestowed upon them, with their own bit of hard graft. The monument of their performance has as much to do with blood and sweat, as with the gifts they had been born with.

They are perfect in their conduct in the field, they are perfect in their interaction to the media, and they are far away from controversy (or nearly so). They are noticed for their performances, and never for their extra-curricular activities, so as to say.

They are easy to respect, and difficult to love. Almost impossible to love, unless you are just a glory hound.

The cocky braggadocio of Pietersen and Kobe and the Williams sisters, even Djokovic in recent times; the sturdy determination of Border, Tomas Muster, Dravid and Lendl; the relative under-achievement of Barkley, Becker, Els and Ballack (and Azhar); the devil-may-care rabble rousing of Jimmy Connors and Ganguly; the genuine niceness and friendliness (as opposed to professional distance) of Shaq and Cesc and Adam Gilchrist; the precocious talent and almost performing-without-trying of Lara and McEnroe and Wasim; the passion of Nadal and Warne and Diego… these give in much more easily to fan-following…

It took a retirement from Graf for me to be a fan, it took a headbutt from Zidane for me to be his fan. Jordan never failed, and I could never be his fan. It took a sudden streak of vulnerability from Pete for me to be his fan…. and so has it been with Sachin.

Sachin, in the last two-three years, has been a pleasure to watch. His powers on the wane, his performance hasn’t. Hard graft, patience and sudden glimpses of flair have been the hallmarks of the recent Sachin. And tell me, the missed hundreds of the last year, haven’t they been exhilarating? And then the throwing up of the bat, reaching a hundred after long last, didn’t you jump off the seat at that moment, sharing the joy with him?

40 greatest players of the Open era

If you go look at Tennis Magazine’s (click here) top 40 of the Open era, you wonder about two big things

1. How different will it be today, and it has just been three years…

2. That it is a little biased towards the modern era, and a little biased towards American players.

Will try a redux sometime, but here’s the end statement…

The greatest player of the Open era, Male or Female, if OBVIOUSLY Steffi Graf. One is blind (or biased) if one does not see it.

And this is for all my Boris-fan Pete-admirer childhood and adolescence, and genuine admiration for Martina, Chris, Sabatini and Seles. This is coming from a never-supported-Graf-in-any-tournament tennis fan.

But isn’t it obvious?

The most dominant tennis performances ever

Now this will be difficult. Say for example in the women’s tournamemt, with Steffi and Seles, and then Venus and Serena at times just toying with the oppponents in the earlier rounds…. similarly Agassi, Pete or Federer more recently…. but that is not a true measure, methinks, since one can never find out if the player was really that good, mostly because the players on the other end could not put up a formidable challenge, mostly because they lacked the basic werewithal to do so….. And this does not exclude the grand slam finals, with the 1988 French Open 6-0 6-0 rout of Zvereva by Graf failing to get a mention because considering Zvereva’s ability as a singles player, and Graf’s form at that point, it owuld have been a no-match come whatever may. Similarly Henin’s recent wins against a choked Ivanovic etc.

So here’s the list I have:

3. Becker beating Edberg in the 1989 Wimbledon finals (6–0, 7–6, 6–4). The greatest in their era, at their best. Becker at his best could blow over almost everyone in Grass. And he did. The second greatest performance ever on Grass, second only to….

2. Sampras beating Agassi in the 1999 Wimbledon finals (6–3, 6–4, 7–5). Agassi, playing at his best, did not have a chance. This was, in my opinion, Pete at his best. And the best ever performance by a male player in any surface against any opposition. Question, what would I think would happen if Becker of the 1989 finals played Sampras of the 1999 finals? Becker is my favourite player of all time, but, well, Sampras would have prevailed, I am sure, in 3 hard-fought sets….

1. Mary Pierce beating Graf in the 1992 French Open Semi-Finals (6-2, 6-2). Graf is the best woman player the world has ever seen, but in this match, she was blown off the court by Pierce, in one of very few instances when she played at her best. Very similar to Becker in the sense that her best was rare, her best was rarer still to be seen than Boris. But this was one match when she strung it all together. As would be expected, she lost the finals to the doughty Spanish counter-puncher Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario.

(Honourable mention: The first set and a half of Agassi vs. Becker, semi-Finals of Wimbledon 1995 (6-1, 4-1). The match ended with Agassi just losing it soon after, and Becker winning in four sets)