Tuesday, August 24, 2010

US Open 2010 - Preview

US open, the last Grand Slam of the year, starts in less than a week from now. US open courts are the fastest among the slams and suit big servers a lot. Defending champion Del Potro has officially withdrawn from the men's singles championship. Seeding were announced yesterday. Now the qualifiers are going on and the draws are scheduled to be out on 26th August. Irrespective of how the draws pan out, here we shall look at the potential contenders for the US open crown this year.

Rafael Nadal is the world No 1 and is seeded No 1 in US open as well. He is the reigning French and Wimbledon champion and he is the clear favorite for US open title. If he wins US open this year, he would be completing the career slam as only the seventh person to do so. His hard court form is not that great having been knocked out of Rogers cup and Cincinnati Masters. However there are rumours that US open court might be slowed down for reasons unknown. If that happens, one need not look beyond Nadal for this year's champion.

Roger Federer regained his world No 2 ranking last week. He has been in good form in hard court events like Rogers cup and Cincinnati masters. He seems to have come out of the shock defeats he had to endure in French Open and Wimbledon this year. He is still the Australian Open champion and fancies his chances in faster courts where his serve and volley approach works quite well. He has no pressure whatsoever entering US open, as he is neither the defending champion nor the world No 1. Federer certainly has the form and history (five time champion at US open) to see him through.

Andy Murray, the British hope, was in terrific form at Toronto where he defeated Federer to take the title. However he got beaten up by unseeded Fish at Cincinnati. Murray has a good all round game which simply suits hard courts. As always, media pressure mounts on him once he reaches the semi finals of the slams. US open also won't be that different. If he can surpass the outside pressures, Murray can not get a better opportunity to lift a Grand Slam crown which he fully deserves.

Novak Djokovic is a good player. That is all about him. I stopped having any great expectation about him as he has the habit of getting kicked out surrendering meekly to arbitrary opponents. On his day, Djokovic can defeat any player on earth. He is too inconsistent to expect him to lift the US open crown. There are quite a few valid points behind backing Djokovic to enter the semi finals atleast.

Robin Soderling is a good player with great forehand and he also lacks consistency. Andy Roddick is growing old and his game has become too predictable. Tomas Berdych is improving with every slam and he has the game to surprise a few top ranked guys. Nikolay Davydenko is a fighter and I do not expect him to go too far into the torunament. Fernando Verdasco has the game to trouble even Nadal, but on present form he stands less chance against top ranked players.There are other potentially good players on hard courts like Marcos Baghdatis, Marin Cilic, David Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt who can trouble the top seeds on their day.

I expect the top 4 ranked players to reach the semi finals of US open this year. From there on, it will be any body's title. Nadal is slightly ahead of others in the title race. I would back Federer to win this US open to add to his already five wins at the Arthur Ashe stadium. We are in for a treat during the first two weeks of September and some great matches are about to be played. I am geared up to witness another potential final between Federer and Nadal.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Waiting for the Mahatma by R K Narayan - Book Review

R K Narayan's novels, which involve various types of people from a fictitious town called Malgudi, are a delight to read. "Waiting for the Mahatma" is another realistic novel set during the freedom struggle days. I was surprised by noting R K Narayan handling a romance genre in his novel. However after reading this novel, I am amazed how well he brings out the emotions in romance as well. This novel is a stunning representation of freedom struggle movement and its impact on the lives of numerous Indian people.

The novel is about a boy of age around twenty called Sriram. He lives with his grandmother in Malgudi. Sriram tries to explore the outside world himself to figure out what interests him the most. He is drawn towards a beautiful and patriotic girl called Bharati in a local festival. He tries to woo her and comes to know that she is working under Mahatma Gandhi for the freedom struggle. He somehow manages to sneak into the freedom struggle movement even though he has no clue initially what it is for. The story unfolds as the experience of a conservative guy entering social life and his romance with a bold and beautiful girl.

Sriram deserts his old grandmother and travels across different villages of rural India along with Bharati to spread the message of the Mahatma. His encounters with different set of people like the shopkeeper who sells foreign imported biscuits is amusing. Sriram comes in contact with a terrorist called Jagadish and the consequences of his associations with him have been realistically portrayed. At some point of time both Sriram and Bharati are destined to be shut in jail indefinitely. Whether Sriram could get the acceptance of Bharati to marry her and whether Mahatma approved their marriage are interestingly narrated.

The best aspect of this novel is the capture of the simplicity of the India and its citizen prior to gaining independence. The ongoing freedom struggle which alters the lives of different people like Sriram makes one feel about the numerous citizens who were forced to abandon their families for their country. The comedy of errors associated with the death of grandmother are thoroughly enjoyable. The novel also provides an insight into the minds of cunning people like Jagadish who manipulate and drag others into their troublesome ways. Having Mahatma and Netaji as characters in the story adds credibility to the story.

Though the backdrop of the story is freedom struggle, R K Narayan makes it relatively light through his impeccable narrative style. The caring grandmother and the shopkeeper Kanni are characters one can easily find in Indian villages even today. I enjoyed the novel as much as any other novel of R K Narayan. The manner in which he brings out the subtle emotions associated with romance is brilliant. I doubt whether any of the present Indian writers have the capacity to match Narayan. This novel is a must read for anyone who wants to delve into the lives of Indian citizen before independence.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Roger on the Move

Roger Federer regained his World No 2 ranking last week in Toronto. But he lost to Murray in a rain-interrupted final. He looked in better shape last week. Today, he enters Cincinnati Masters as the defending champion. With US open just more than a week away, there is very less time for Federer to regroup and regain his lost momentum. He was nearly unbeatable in US open for 5 years till Del Potro defeated him in the marathon final last year. Does Federer has any realistic chance of winning US open?

At the age of 29, Federer needs to be more accurate to compensate for his lost agility. The serve seems to have lost some of the sting it had during his years at the top. This was quite evident in his final loss to Murray in Toronto 2 days back. The ease with which Murray repeatedly broke Federer's serve was appalling. In a fast court like US open, the accuracy and speed of serve plays a major role as most points won with serve. Federer certainly needs to fine tune his serve. These are the areas which Federer needs to fight within himself.

There are opponents who feared once upon a time facing Federer. Same guys are increasingly confident of beating Federer nowadays. The list includes Nadal, Murray, Soderling, Berdych, Del Potro, Djokovic to name a few. These guys, except Nadal, were repeatedly beaten up by Federer in the Grandslams few years back. Federer having started using his backhand more often now gives power hitters enough fodder to pounce on his returns. Now reaching semi finals of a grand slam has not been a formality for Federer.

Rogers Masters at Toronto revealed that Murray, Djokovic and Berdych are confident of stretching Federer in even the fastest courts. The Cincinnati Masters which is presently underway will give more insight as to where Federer stands in the favorite list to lift the US open crown. Having said that, I feel all is not lost for Federer as yet. He has hired a new coach, Annacone, who has the experience of coaching champions like Pete Sampras.

I feel that self-doubt which comes with age is the only problem Federer is facing at present. If he overcomes that, he has it in him to lift few more slams and even reach World No 1 again. Federer was in similar situation in 2008. He bounced back superbly to lift 2 slams in 2009 besides reaching the finals of the other two. Further, he is the reigning Australian open champion.

These facts are enough to motivate Federer to have another go at the US open. I expect stiff fight for Federer to reach even the semi final of US open. Having watched Federer all these years, I feel that he has it in him to emerge victorious in the second week of September. The tennis fans are, nevertheless, going to have a treat yet again for a couple of weeks from August 30th. I am eager to join the fun cheering for the one and only Roger Federer.