“When my mother was giving me the milk, I was watching Boris win Wimbledon, and now he’s giving me this trophy!”(Novak Djokovic, after accepting the runner-up prize from Boris Becker at the Pacific Life Open)
Staying up till 2.30 AM paid off. The Great and Glorious Nadal won his first title in eight months, and a big one at that (this is among the highest-profile events outside the four Slams). Very one-sided match to begin with (Nadal took 14 of the first 16 points), got more competitive in the second set, but experience counted in the end – this was Djokovic’s first Masters Series final, while Rafa has been in seven.
Nadal has been seriously good throughout the tournament. I won’t go out on a limb and say he would have beaten Federer if they’d met in the final, but he’s near his best again. I watched the delayed coverage of his semi-final against Andy Roddick too, and on current evidence the gap between world numbers 2 and 3 is as wide as that between numbers 1 and 2. Nadal has been number 2 for something like 85 consecutive weeks now (by far a record) and if he had been playing in any other era he would certainly have got at least a taste of the top position by now. At one point last year his ATP points tally was nearly as high as Sampras’s when he was world number one in the late 1990s.
(Earlier post on Nadal here)
What of cricket, you ask? The reason I enjoy matches like this one so much is that watching the news channels afterwards (and being a fly on the wall when I go to office later in the week) becomes very entertaining. Anguished-looking anchors asking anguished-looking People on the Street “aapko kaisa lag raha hai?” (yes, that most incisive of questions, patented by Indian Journalism). One idiotic message after another displaying on the news tickers. (Imagine how much the telecom companies are making, what with morons around the country messaging their inane thoughts to “123” and “2424” and what-have-you.) People saying “keep the faith countrymen, we will surely bring back the Cup, it is in our destiny”. People saying “the players should be lined up against a wall and shot”.
On SET Max Mandira Bedi's lips tremble but she puts on a brave smile and her eyes shine with quiet defiance, much like Nargis in that poster with the plough across her shoulder. Charu Sharma gulps and makes statements like, "Uh, well, what can one say? Um, er, ulp, um...and now let's look at some Super Sixes." And on NDTV I think it was, someone came up with this heart-stopping insight after the news of Bob Woolmer’s death: “We were thinking this tournament is going to be all about playing games and having fun but then something like this happens and you realise that Life is more important and it’s so much bigger than the game blah blah.”
(One question: How does India losing to Bangladesh count as a bigger upset than Pakistan losing to Ireland, as many “TV experts” were claiming? Is it because India being a much larger country than Pakistan, there are so many more people to upset? My angst is bigger than yours...)