Sunday, 17 June 2012



Dear Lee-Hesh,

As a young Indian, my first understanding of tennis came in 1999, thanks to the both of you. You’ll taught me what tennis is and today it is my second favorite sport in the world. I was so proud to read all the glorious exploits of ‘Indian Express’ in the newspapers. I used to collect paper clippings of your victories. All the Grand Slams, all the ATP events, all the Davis Cups. Needless to say, you’ll were my idols and I loved watching you’ll play together.

Then the split happened. I was really upset initially but with time and victories with other I accepted that Lee-Hesh will not play together again, unless it’s for the India.  Of course no one really knows the exact reason of the fall-out, and it really doesn’t matter because you’ll came back together later; and always played for India. You would always come together as one to play under the national flag. At the Asian games, at the Commonwealth games, in the Davis Cup; everybody kind of expected you to play together, as we saw in 2008 before the Beijing Games.

Now its 2012. Years have passed and a lot of water has flown under the bridge. Rohan Bopanna, Somdev Devarman, Karan Rastogi, Prakash Amritraj… a number of Indian players have come, some have gone and you’ll have tried with various partners with moderate success. But everybody knows that the success that Lee-Hesh had cannot be replicated with a Mirny, a Zimonic, a Knowles, a Stepanek, a Dlouhy. That is because you are the best Men’s Double pair for India, ever. And that is why we expected you to play together at the 2012 London Olympics as well. Till the issue snowballed last week. And I say snowballed, because it may have been blown out of proportion by the media. This is the Olympics! Possibly the last Olympics that both of you’ll will play. And yet you’ll don’t want to play with each other. Aren’t you the same guys who had tears in their eyes when the national anthem was played after a particularly hard-fought victory? The same players who wrapped the Indian tricolor around their shoulder during the victory laps? You cannot fake those emotions, just look at the photographs. I do not doubt your patriotism or loyalty for a moment, I just wish to remind you about it.

I am trying to understand the issue, or at least I’d like to think I am. I’ve read all the emails to and fro the AITA, the press release from Bhupahi-Bopanna and numerous semi-factual news reports. But I still don’t completely get the reason for this almost-childish-bordering-on-egoistic behavior from India’s two greatest sportsmen. I don’t know who is right or wrong, all I know is one of you have to be the bigger person here. All I know is there cannot be ego when you are representing your country. And I also know I am being too idealistic here, but I always am when it comes to Indian sport.

Leander Paes after winning the bronze medal
at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics
I am no authority in playing tennis, representing India or the functioning of sports administrations. But I can safely call myself an emotional Indian fan. And as someone who has grown up watching you play together, I know that you are India’s best chance of an Olympic medal. We all know what happened at the 2008 Beijing Olympic, how we almost got a medal, how we narrowly lost to eventual winners Federer-Wawrinka. I have very little doubt that we can reach there this time. Forget the Bryan brothers, the Woodies picked you to be the best! So just for this one Olympics keep everything aside and play - for India, for a medal, for us fans. Nothing beats winning an Olympic medal and no sacrifice is too big to achieve that, least of all sacrificing your ego. Just rewind back to 1996 and have a look at Leander’s emotions, it says it all.

All I want is to see the Indian Express in action one last time. Medal or no medal, this is our best chance. Please put everything aside and play as one. Leander, be the bigger person and take the first step. Mahesh, be a better person and let bygones be bygones. As fans, we don’t care who is right or who is wrong. In fact after some time, we may not even remember the issue. All we will remember is seeing you two play your own brand of tennis together. And since India has two slots, Bopanna will get his chance to play with another partner. So please, just this once, play as one.

Yours sincerely,
An Indian fan.

Sunday, 10 June 2012



Photo: Roger Federer

Copyright : Corinne Dubreuil

When I wrote the first part of this piece, I had a fair inclination that I will be writing this in the near future, after the quarter/semi final of the French Open 2012 to be more precise. Because I knew that Federer will not (and should not) advance to the finals at Roland Garros.

Part of me wanted Roger Federer to lose the French Open semifinals to Novak Djokovic. Not a treacherous, disloyal part, but instead the faithful, emotional part. For one main reason – I cannot see him lose another Grand Slam Final to Rafael Nadal.

This is the French Open, a Grand Slam owned by Nadal. Admittedly I am not a big fan of the Spaniard, but that doesn’t mean I hate him or ignore his achievements or potential. I have always maintained that in another era, he would have been the greatest and my favorite. In fact I would advise other Federer fans the same as well, there is no point in hating Nadal. I accept that he is the King of Clay, the best tennis player on clay since Bjorn Borg. And his six French Open titles stand testimony to the fact.  Clay is probably the toughest surface to play tennis on and to excel on it requires a different kind of stamina and agility along with quick reflexes and speed. Something that Rafa possesses which makes him look so effortless on a clay court. In fact, even exceedingly good clay court players pale in comparison to him. A phenomenon that we Federer fans are well acquainted with.

It is not Fed is not a good player on clay, it is just that when he plays against Nadal, he looks the second best. Case in point being the Madrid Open 2012, it was played on clay and Federer emerged Champion contrary to expectations. It seems that Federer becomes the best player on clay once the sword called Nadal is removed from over his head. That is what happened in 2009 when he won his maiden (and only) French Open. He dismissed Robin Soderling without breaking a sweat and completed his career Slam. But in a sport like tennis, there is no silver and it doesn’t matter how many finals he has reached at Roland Garros, nobody remembers the runner-up. And every final that Federer loses to Nadal, is like a thorn in the side of every Federer fan. That is precisely why I wanted him to lose to Djokovic. Despite knowing that last year in the semifinals of the French Open, he played the best match of the year, defeating Djoker and ending his unbeaten run.  That match wiped out the doubt I had in my mind that Federer is past his prime. He still has it in him, but he also has a mental block along with it.

So as the French Open Men’s Final begins today, I support no one. Djokovic will either finish his career Slam or Nadal will go past Bjorn Borg. Either ways, I will watch it for some exceptional tennis from two of the most ingenious players tennis has seen. May the better man win! As for us, it will always be hard being a Federer fan at the French Open.

Sunday, 3 June 2012



Sport is mostly associated physical activity, agility, strength, fitness, and perspiration. Maybe that is why most people do not follow chess as a ‘sport’. But that does not make World Chess Champion Vishwanathan Anand any less of a sportsman. In fact, I will go on to say that Vishy Anand is India’s greatest sportsperson.

Chess is an individual sport, which not many people understand, let alone follow. Watching a chess match live can be a not-so-entertaining experience unless you have above average IQ levels. And that is why it isn’t endorsed as well as the other sports, especially in India. Of course Vishy changed this, he made sure that everybody in India knew who he was and which sport he played. It would be fair to say that he put India on the world map as far as chess is concerned. A sport dominated by Russians, Anand carved his own niche and became one of the greatest Chess players of all time. Yet you won’t see Anand posters on the road or any temples built to worship him. His face doesn’t adorn any hoarding, or sells any popular products. No celebrity ever gushes about him or how handsome he is, no child says he wants to become like V Anand after he grows up and very few people idolize him. My only question is why. And the only answer I get is media.

When Anand was en route to becoming World Champion, again, at Moscow, the IPL was on in full swing in India and that was the main focus of the media. Some publications carried the headline but the articles were brief and left a lot to be desired. I understand that in order to make more money, things like IPL are given more importance in media, but with such a major achievements by an Indian, surely we could have a lot more coverage on Anand. How else will the masses be aware of such happenings if the media does not give it the place it deserves?

Recently there has been lot of talks about sport being included as a category for India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna and of course the name that has started this is Sachin Tendulkar. But personally I think that is any Indian sportsman has to be given the Bharat Ratna, it has to be Vishwanathan Anand. Anand is the first recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 99, in 2007 he was the first sportsperson to be awarded the PadmaVibhushan. And it is only fair that he receives the Bharat Ratna soon. I say this going out on a limb but with full conviction. And why not, considering his sheer amount of achievements. Anand was India’s first Grandmaster back in 1988. He has won the World Chess Championships five times, in 2000, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012 and has been the undisputed World Number 1 since 2007. In a sport as competitive and intensive as chess, such dominating is incredible, more so for an Indian.

To be completely honest, I do not understand chess as much I would like to. I play chess but my biggest achievement has been beating by 8-year old nephew once, after losing to him countless times. And I can’t write about chess as I can about other sports. But I wrote this piece for only one reason – to highlight how Vishy Anand has always been the unsung hero, as compared to a Sachin Tendulkar or a MS Dhoni, or sometimes even a Leander Paes. I hope to join sports media one day and I would be very disappointed if I have SRK & KKR on the front page when Anand should be there. I have only on e request of all the sports writers, even those who write in 140 characters on twitter, let us not unsing Vishy Anand. he is India’s greatest sports player.