Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The 23rd thing- Puerility

I like my blog. I like my laptop. I like Rafa. I like sitting. I like feeling slight soreness in my limbs after badminton. I like being childish. I like being bossy. I like to read. I like to listen. I like to think. I like to type. I like to laugh and the fact that laughter is contagious. I like to speak. I like to wield my crystal sword and drive a supercar and race and meet Rafa and own Kimi which means I like to dream. I like bournvilles. I like my friends. I like green. I like my family. I like calling people dumbass and guldu. I like watching really good movies preferably with Christian Bale in them. I like honesty. I like my iT. I like the smell of a car the moment you open the door and sit in it. I like certain characters in books more than I should. I like music. I like to imagine. I like practicality. I like my muscles. I like to pretend to lose in arm wrestling matches with this really thin friend just to boost her self confidence. I like to whistle. I like to wash my bike which means keeping it parked outside while it rains. I like praising my own badminton shots. I like The 23rd thing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The 22nd thing- Why today was so awesome

1. Rafa won. Big win. Career Grand Slam.
2. Coll ended early (as it does on Tuesdays).
3. Began badminton early.
4. Coach trained us today a lot more thanks to Amte.
5. Getting new guts for my badminton racquet. Hope sir makes it awesome.
6. Music class was very good.
7. Vignesh said he's give me my Gone With The Wind tomorrow.
8. I can sleep well knowing that I can wake up late.

The 21st thing- Some more Rafa

Well, I'm about to collapse as I type this. Very tired. So very proud. That Rafa has played fantastic tennis. Not just in the finals of the USO. But right from the time he won the French Open. Back then I was a nervous wreck. I simply did not want him to lose. He did not deserve to lose at all. The emotional and physical stresses he went through. His parents' divorce. Tendonitis problems. Critics having more than just a go at him. "Will RN ever come back?" I remember the pain I went through. I could not accept the fact that his career might go kaput. He was so young. Had so much more to accomplish. And I couldn't understand why the world did not mourn with me. It hadn't accepted as easily as I had that Nadal was one of the tennis greats. After winning 4 French Open titles and 2 at Wimbledon and even 1 Australian Open title, he had, bafflingly, not made a major impression in the tennis world. Oh he was considered very very good, but not of the best yet, not good enough to have the potential to be a legend. One reason I loved Rafa was for his immense mental strength. The fact that he shuts out the past (immediate even), digs deep, and does what he does best with passion. He climbed those mountains surely and steadily, taking it a step at a time, being sure footed (almost like a Capricorn!) and remaining beautifully modest all the while. And what came out was a never done before 6 time straight Monte Carlo wins, his favoured French Open Title (no he wouldn't say he was No 1 yet), Wimbledon, and, when there was only one question left for everybody to ask of Rafa, Could he win the ever elusive US Open title, he answers. Finally, because the response towards Rafa's victory feels so different, Rafa is out of Federer's shadow. Everyone says now as to how incredible Rafa has been this year, without making references to the fact that Federer was not at his best. Finally, Rafa has his own pedestal to stand on. And finally, I can go to bed cuz I'm done writing and I so badly wanted to express my immense pride, however done.

The 20th thing- Rafael Nadal

I of course wanted to write something about Rafa winning the US Open and what that has done to the world of tennis, but I read this article on by Peter Bodo and I'm pasting that instead. I felt it does more justice to this iconic event that I could ever do.

The Longest Journey by Peter Bodo

The journey began humbly enough in 2004, when Rafael Nadal was just a stringy-haired, urchin-like youth of 18 and a champion for the first time in an ATP main tour event in Sopot, Poland. He seemed, even then, cut from different cloth than most of his rivals young or old—a kid who brought an arched eyebrow and smile of amusement to the face of any tennis fan who laid eyes on him. Who was this boy who appeared to have been raised by wolves and schooled in the game by someone who might have known much, but none of it about tennis? 
Nobody who understood the strokes and bio-mechanics of tennis would tolerate, never mind teach, that wild bolo forehand. That backhand? The stroke conjured the image of a Medieval monk thrusting aloft a cross to ward off a vampire. The serve? It looked all wrong; it seemed a rushed, minimalist push bearing no resemblance to the leisurely, leonine action of a Pete Sampras, or the explosive delivery of a Goran Ivanisevic.
When Nadal won the French Open in 2005, the first time he ever played at Roland Garros, it was easy to dismiss the accomplishment as yet another proof that the red clay encouraged an eccentricity upon which any well-bred tennis enthusiast or player might frown. It was charming, in a provincial kind of way, and the boy (a right-hander prevailed upon to play as a lefty—who could imagine such a thing?) might win often on that bedeviling clay. He could become one of those familiar one-trick ponies who would never amount to much on a court that he left with his socks clean. You had to admit, though, that he was a speedy little bugger, and persistent as a rash.
But as many any Alpinist can tell you, you don't think of the summit on a long and arduous climb. You just think about the next step, and then the next—the longest and most difficult journey always begins with a single step. So it was that Nadal set forth, and today he finished one of the longest journeys imaginable when he completed a career Grand Slam by yanking the U.S. Open title right out of the hands of a reconstructed Novak Djokovic. It may not serve the purpose of this theme very well, but the journey was relatively swift; Nadal has a career Grand Slam at age 24. But don't for a moment assume that the distance ever seemed short, or the obstacles less than formidable.
It was fitting that Nadal's quest to join his pal Federer in what is now the exclusive seven-man Career Slam Club would end on the sea-blue, rock-hard plain of Arthur Ashe stadium, because it's always best to take challenges in the order of their difficulty, building to the most hazardous one. Not that any were easy.
We had an inkling of things to come when Nadal won Wimbledon for the first time in 2008. It was a surprise diluted to some extent by the fact that Nadal had reached two finals in London before he won, and he played the same opponent on all three occasions. Roger Federer took the grass almost as naturally as Nadal took to the clay, so there were those who thought that after falling painfully short of beating Federer at Wimbledon those first two times, Nadal probably never would do it. They said that about Ivan Lendl, too, back in the day. Only in Ivan's case, it turned out to be true.
Nadal finally did it, though, and it turns out that the prized triumph at Wimbledon was not nearly the big ask that most people predicted. Nadal explained why that was so today, when contemplating his journey. "Is true I have to adjust my game to play in Wimbledon, but in my opinion, play in Wimbledon for me always wasn't that bad, because one of the most important things on Wimbledon is movements, and I think my movements are good to play well on that surface. The surface help me [also] because my serve was not that good as I have today, and with less serve I can do the same, the same to the opponent as what I can do today—especially at this tournament."
In other words, Nadal's serve was always more of a weapon on grass, and it enabled him to win more easy points.
After winning the grass-court major in 2008, Nadal turned his attention to the hard courts. Rather, Grand Slam hard courts, because by then he had already won on the cement on Indian Wells. He made his biggest, early strides on hard courts by incorporating two elements into his basic style. He realized that he had to play closer to the baseline and take the ball on the rise, and he made his life easier by developing the ability to flatten out and drive his groundstrokes deeper when the occasion called for it. Prep-work done, he was ready to knock off his first hard court major in Melbourne. "In Australia, anyway, if it's hot, the ball bounces higher," he said today. "Sure to win in here at the U.S. Open I think is the more difficult, more difficult conditions to adapt, to adjust, my game on this court, for the balls, for the court, for everything, no?"
So that left the U.S. Open, a tournament which Nadal was in the habit of playing in a state of mental or physical distress; often both. And it was the tournament that some pundits doubted he would ever win, because the surface is both fast and slick, which keeps the ball low on the bounce. The hard courts here keep his aggressive topspin shots from bouncing too high, and rob him of the ability to push back and tire an opponent. And the speed of the court also allowed opponents to serve more effectively, while denying him some of the benefits yielded by grass.
But that all changed this year. An 11th hour tweak of his grip and a new focus on the importance of the serve propelled him through this tournament. Until today's match, Nadal had been broken just twice in the tournament, and he had not lost a set. It was a tribute to the quality of Djokovic's game, and his courage, that he broke Nadal three times and prevented Nadal—if barely—from becoming the first player to win this tournament without losing a set in half a century.
Today, Nadal frequently broke the 130 mph barrier with his serve, 10 mph more than he's accustomed to getting out of the stroke. And he spoke of it almost reverently: "For me the most important thing [for the future] is try to keep serving like I did during this tournament. I think that's—if I can do it, this most of the time is gonna be a big change for me and my career, because if I have that free points that I had during all this tournament it's gonna be different for me. I can play more aggressive. I can play with more calm when I am returning. So it can change a lot.
"So that's, for me, the first very important part to keep improving. After that, I can improve everything: volley, keep improving the volley and position on the court, being more inside the court, I improved a lot since last year but never is enough, I am not a perfect player, so everybody can improve."
Like all arduous journeys, the one Nadal has taken, the one which ended tonight, has taken a toll and also transformed him—in his case, in an admirable way. So let's review: Since Nadal first won the French Open, he's learned to flatten out his strokes (when the occasion/surface requires), play from on the baseline or inside the court, added a slice backhand (it served him well at times tonight, but remains a work in progress), and boosted his service speed and proficiency. One unsung improvement: his volley. He seems to volley better by the day. There seems to be no end to the improvement of which this already iconic player is capable.
The only thing that has an end is his journey. Or at least this portion of it. But let's let him rest on his laurels before we begin to discuss his next one. He'll be the first to tell you that 16 is a big number.