Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Fall of a Titan
There is a old theory to quite successful people failing and taking it really hard. The higher you are on the ladder, the more painful the fall that occurs. It was this that came to my mind on Sunday when I saw the once-invincible, still supremely talented, Roger Federer cry out of helplessness. He has tried everything physically possible to beat that man from Majorca. But as is obvious, the problem lies elsewhere - the mind. They say that the face is an index to the mind and I still remember myself remarking that Federer has lost the game in the second game of the 5th set when his face and eyes had given away the fight. He had given up, mentally, at the very least.
I find that it is quite a puzzle that supremely talented people are mentally frail. Another ready example that springs to my mind is Sachin Tendulkar. To say he is the best batsman to come from India is an understatement - his genius partly borders on being paranormal. I think with the current deterioration in technique, there might nobody else who can thump a short of good length ball for a straight driven four ever, on a consistent basis as SRT has done. But, on quite a few occasions SRT has failed when it comes to putting mind over matter - the final of WC 2003 or the Chennai test against Pakistan or the Super Six game against Aus in WC 1999. Or for another broader perspective, when he was the captain, India regressed - Sri Lanka scored 945 in a single innings. We lost a test series to SAF at home, which promptly made Tendulkar to quit. A stronger soul would have taken it upon himself to lift the team out of the rut.
What is it that these guys who are supremely talented are not made of sterling stuff in the cranium? Is it the fact that they are so unbelievably talented that they are never required to develop a tougher mental make-up?
But getting back to the tennis game, grudgingly, I have to admit Nadal is a tennis great. I was almost 6 years old when I started to follow Pistol Pete. I still remember the sportstar having a cover edition with Pete after the US Open victory. I like Champions who play with grace/elegance. Sampras was an efficient destroyer. No fancy dress stuff nor over the shouting/grunting/mukkal-munagal stuff. And I think it because of that aspect of his game that he was never appreciated for a killer serve. Seeing Federer and Nadal trade breaks was weird having seen Sampras break his opponent and follow that up with a 15-0, 30-0, 40-0 and game pounding, mostly coming in the form of his killer serve or his 'slam-dunk' serve and volley. I think it is fitting that Federer has to dig deep into himself to equal the master. But, again it will be a fairy-tale of sorts if Federer can draw level at Roland Garros and then, break the ceiling at Wimbledon - the hallowed turf. I know this is much difficult that it actually sounds, but I want that to happen so that that cup-biting, grunting-moaning kaattaan from Majorca is put to pasture forever.