Grand Slam Finals and where I watched them

The big tennis buff that I am, I make it a point to turn watching Grand Slam finals into an enjoyable experience – especially when Roger Federer is playing. It is always fun watching and rooting for him, getting completely involved in the game – cheering every shot and sulking at every missed opportunity. Here is a list of the previous few Grand Slam finals, those involving Roger, and where I watched them. All I can say is I have enjoyed every moment of watching the master at work. Hope he continues playing more finals and winning more Grand Slams (he is at 16 now):

1. Australian Open 2010 – Roger Federer v/s Andy Murray – I watched this one at home with family. My family too enjoys watching tennis and my sister is a big Rafael Nadal fan. Since Rafa did not make it to the finals of this one, she was rooting for Andy. It is always fun to have someone who is supporting the opponent. And when it is me and my sister, the rivalry on-field is nothing compared to the rivalry between the two of us. Leading up to this final, Andy Murray was being touted as the favourite. He was playing some amazing tennis and had defeated Nadal in the Quarters with some great display of tennis. On the other hand, Federer was not at his prime. But such is the greatness of the man that even his moderate form is good enough to get him to the title round. And thus started the Finals. Andy Murray started off as expected with some good cross-court passes and one beautiful pass down the line which caught even the great Federer wrong footed. It looked like he would have a tough job even winning a set, forget about winning the title. But champions are made of special stuff. He started getting his shots, dug in to stay in points and slowly started to dictate points and the pace of the game. Due to this resurgence,  Andy’s game deteriorated and before you knew it Federer was two sets to love up. Andy gave a good fight in the third set with both of them going neck and neck and the set going into a tie break. In fact, Federer came back from 2-5 down to force the tiebreak.  And he prevailed to win it 6–3, 6–4, 7–6 and thus conquered his 5th Australian Open and 16th Slam. I was ecstatic and gave my sis a I-told-you-this-was-inevitable look. All in all, a great game and a deserved champion.

2. U.S Open 2009 – Juan Martin del Potro v/s Roger Federer – This one was a heart-break. I watched this one at my friend and colleague Shreshth’s home, who is also a Federer fan. The thing with U.S Open is that the big matches are played in the evening NY time which means in India it will be at around 4 to 5 in the morning. During this match, though we had planned to watch it from the beginning, neither of us could wake up on time. I woke up at around 6:30 and by then Federer was well on his way to winning his 16th Slam and 6th consecutive U.S Open title. He was leading two sets to one and was playing flawless tennis that has become his trademark. On the other hand, del Potro looked in awe of the big occasion. But things started to change in the fourth set. Federer started missing his shots and del Potro started getting his. With this, he gained confidence and went on to win the fourth set. The fifth one was a close affair but Federer still looked out of sorts. Shreshth and I were expecting him to make his now customary comeback and win it but it wasn’t to be. del Potro won his first Grand Slam with a 3–6, 7–6(5), 4–6, 7–6(4), 6–2 win over the champion. It was a rather disappointing end to the Grand Slam calendar for Federer, but it had still been a good year for him. He had regained his No.1 rank from Rafa and most importantly the lost confidence was back. But the 16th would have to wait for now.

3. Wimbledon 2009 – Roger Federer v/s Andy Roddick – Federer was back at his favourite hunting ground exactly a year after that heartbreaking loss to his biggest nemesis in what was probably the best tennis match ever played. But this time things looked different. The one title that had always eluded him and that looked like it always would had been conquered. The Career Slam had been achieved. Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Slams had been equalled. And what’s more, the greatest threat had withdrawn due to injury (though I’m sure Roger would have rather that he could avenge his defeat in the previous year’s final). It seemed like there was nothing that could stop him from getting back his most coveted trophy. And everything seemed to be going according to the script until he met his match in the Finals in the form of Andy Roddick. Andy was playing the most inspired tennis of his career and had reached the final by defeating the other Andy and the crowd favourite – Andy Murray. Roger had defeated him quite comprehensively on previous occasions at Wimbledon but even he knew that this time it wasn’t going to be as easy. So did I. I watched this one at the home of my friend Vasu who is yet another Federer fan and a very knowledgeable tennis enthusiast. As the match got under-way and as each of them started matching the other shot for shot, we knew we were in for a big treat. Surely no Wimbledon final can surpass the thrill and the excitement of the previous edition? Well this one came real close. Suffice to say that Federer broke Roddick just once in the entire match and that one to clinch the match and the championship 5-7 7-6 7-6 3-6 16-14! The match duration was 4 hours 16 min out of which the final set itself went on for more than an hour and a half! A real humdinger with fortunes fluctuating with every point. But, what matters in the end is that Federer won it. But you had to feel for Andy Roddick. He gave it his all. This time, he threw more than just the kitchen sink at Roger.

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How to Drive a Car – Part I

I finally got myself to drive to the nearest Driving School (in a two-wheeler, of course) and join the Car Driving class that I have been meaning to join for quite sometime now. Being the lazy bum that I am, I always do things years after the correct age to have done it. Be it getting a passport, getting a job or getting a girl friend (well, I haven’t managed that yet!). So this delay in wanting to learn how to drive a car comes as no surprise whatsoever. On the contrary, what is surprising is that I didn’t put it off further. Instead, I got up all charged up this morning and enthusiastically sang ‘Aaja Meri Gaadi Mein Baith Jaa’ while taking my bath and went straight to that Driving School.

There I was given an option of 3 cars to choose from – a Maruti 800, a Maruti Alto and a Hyundai Santro. The costs for these (including costs for LL, DL, 10 hours of classes and something called a smart card) were 2700, 2800 and 3000 respectively. I went for the Santro by instinct, but the guy said that it was booked for at least 2 weeks. I did not want to wait for that long. I might change my mind. So I went for the Alto instead.

So it was time for my first class. I introduced myself to the instructor, a young chap called Prakash. (He said he was from Davangere and was staying alone in a room near to the driving school. Poor guy gets to go home just once a year even though it’s just an overnight journey from Bangalore to Davangere. Felt sorry for him.) He took the seat next to the driver’s (which I usually take in my Dad’s car) and I, for the very first time, sat on the driver’s seat. It felt good. He then asked me to wear my seat belt and then started explaining the essential things needed to be understood before starting the car – the Accelerator, Brake and Clutch (or the ABC as he called them), the hand brake, the indicators etc. He then said I would just concentrate on the acceleration and the steering today. He then asked me to start the car. I did so and pushed the peddle of the accelerator. All the other intricacies of starting a car were taken care by him for now.

It is an amazing feeling when you start a car and push the peddle for the very first time which can only be experienced to be understood. We drove around the whole of my locality for the next 45 minutes. Turns out that I have good steering control and he told me I would be able to learn driving fully in 5 classes or so (he probably encourages all his other students in the same way, so you never know how true this might be). I t was great fun driving around the near empty roads of my locality. I especially liked it when he asked me to take a turn because it is difficult initially to judge how much to steer to take those turns. But looked like I managed it more than fine.

So far so good. My next class is tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll pick up things just as well as I did today.