Finally…. The Curse is off his back

Ten years back, same time, I was not too fond of the fact of watching Agassi win the French Open, thereby becoming one of the very few to have won all four Grand Slams in a career. He indeed became a legend, considering he did win an Olympic Gold at the Atlanta Games in 1996. I was a class 10 student, and a pro-Sampras fan didn’t like this fact. A degree of tranquility came when Sampras thrashed Agassi in straight sets to win yet another Wimbledon in 1999.

Sampras managed to win one more before he lost to Roger Federer in the fourth round of the 2001 Wimbledon Championships. That was the first and the only time they both ever met in an ATP tour.

I was in tears, at the same time couldn’t hate Roger, because he was a good friend and a mixed doubles partner of Martina Hingis (who still is my favourite) when the pair won the Hopman’s Cup in early 2001.

I was wondering, Did I see my new hero? Because I heard a lot of praise of Roger from Sampras, this impacted me to like him as well.

Another Swiss halted Sampras in George Bastl in 2002 before winning his last Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows. He retired, although the announcement came late, I knew he wouldn’t come back.

From then, it’s been all Roger; seeing him win the 2003 Wimbledon gave me so much satisfaction that, I felt, it was time the next King of Grass arrived. Defeats to Nadal at Roland Garros made me pinch myself each time, so I did till this very year when Roger won the elusive French Open, he completed the career Grand Slam. He needs one more to be one clear of Pete Sampras, who has 14 with no French Open. An all-time legend – Does anyone doubt? Only cynics, I suppose.

The curse of clay is gone; it’s off from Federer’s back, well and truly grounded at Roland Garros today. Ten years is such a long time, and I am in tears, tears of joy. Never I had a chance to enjoy and rejoice in someone winning the French Open since the glory days of Sergei Bruguera in 1993 and 1994.

On a personal front, there is nothing better than being in Roger’s home country to witness this historic moment in tennis and a historic landmark in his life. And somewhere, a sense of triumph for me as well.

Countdown to the D-Day Part I

This very day, April 6th, last year, will go down as the trigger day, or should I say the day that determined my future path. Just as when I had a feeling, I had quite a challenging stroll in the park, though I did an excellent job of going through it.

But it Happened One Evening. It was a Sunday, April 6th, 2008. I was able to appreciate it better because of few events that preceded this day. Although one cannot fathom the relevance, personally, all the events were necessary for what I turned out to be on that day.

This goes back to December 2007, when I was making plans about visiting Rajasthan with my mother. It was just two of us. I had made all the plans for the visit.

I got a mail from a very revered senior from my college about teaming up for an All India Cricket Quiz, sponsored by History Channel. I agreed. The next few days, we spoke at the most unexpected times, No hello, Just a funda (an appreciated factoid) from cricket would pop up, when I was working, sleeping, or having food.

That was the passion he had, or the superior managerial skills to pump up the intensity before a contest.

The quiz was to be held in Delhi on the last week of January 2008. We did well to weather the cold in the first place. It so happened, I got myself acquainted with a friend of mine in Gurgaon. She was kind enough to allow me to stay in her house, made Pav Bhaji one evening, took me out with her friends to have a hot cup of chai (tea) at midnight.

That was cold, and I never experienced that before coming to Switzerland.

Pradeep and I dreamt about smashing the quiz in our very own style. This was the second time we paired up as a team, the first one for the Cricinfo Quiz conducted by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan and George Binoy in Bangalore.

The theme was cricket, and we qualified for the finals and felt a bit warm inside the auditorium. The finals didn’t turn out the way we wanted. We missed quite a few sitters, coming third in the end. We left the hall disappointed and off we went to the airport. I messaged him early the next morning about taking part in the second round at Mumbai.

I was running short of cash since I had made all the arrangements for a long Rajasthan trip.

But, something inside me was haunting throughout. It was a case of redemption for me and us as a team in general. It is not often we get a chance to prove to ourselves that we are one among the league of very good Sports Quizzers in India. We knew we had to do it for ourselves if not for Rs 50000 as a cash prize for winners.

A fortnight later, Mumbai it was. On Valentine’s Day, I land in Mumbai. Oh, Ya, Good way to celebrate it, isn’t it? In my case, it was the best possible way to ward off the feelings from my previous relationship.

The next day, while he had some work to finish, I took this opportunity to meet Keith, a good friend from my undergrad days. We chatted after a long time.

Post Lunch, Pradeep and I were back for some Quizzing action. Bang bang, we were right on target from the go. We topped the prelims by miles, and it felt right for us in the finals. We earned it! Delhi episode was just a blur.

The form continued in the finals as we thrashed everyone by a 130-point margin. It was ruthless, felt for a while, as to why I idolise Sachin, Schumacher, and Sampras. It was for kicks for being sheer ruthless, not quite the way that undermines others, though. It was a point to prove for ourselves. To restore our pride, in some way, lost dignity. It was all in our minds.

“How about the All India Motorsports quiz?” – Pradeep
I said – “Let’s do it, mate.”

While I sat on a late-night flight to Bangalore from Mumbai, I wondered, Can we repeat this?

Let’s see, for the moment I was looking forward to my trip to Rajasthan.