SPORT TRIBUNE Saturday, May 27, 2000, Chandigarh, India
 

Swiss miss plans to be top again
By Stephen Bierley
She is still at a loss to explain exactly what happened and why. Martina Hingis says: “I think I lost my mind. There was so much pressure and I really wanted to beat her and win the title.” It was one of the most extraordinary few minutes on a tennis court since John McEnroe launched his infamous “you cannot be serious” tirade.

NSFs need to change outlook
By Ramu Sharma
WITH few exceptions the sports federations in the country have failed to grow with the times. While some of them still stand rooted in archaic traditions, some others refuse room for fresh ideas in the fear that they would result in a transformation which would threaten the very survival of the old order. One could have understood the reservations or the hesitancy to fall in line with the changing order if these federations had observed their own rules to the letter.

Teeing-off
by K.R. Wadhwaney
Rohtas Singh still going strong

R
ohtas Singh is a ‘dada’ of Indian professional golf, particularly Delhi golf. He is an outstanding Mayor. His accomplishments are several for the past more than than 25 years. During his illustrious career, he has achieved more than 100 wins and he is still going strong.

 

 


 
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Swiss miss plans to be top again
By Stephen Bierley

She is still at a loss to explain exactly what happened and why. Martina Hingis says: “I think I lost my mind. There was so much pressure and I really wanted to beat her and win the title.” It was one of the most extraordinary few minutes on a tennis court since John McEnroe launched his infamous “you cannot be serious” tirade.

Hingis, who was leading the multi-champion Steffi Graf 6-4, 2-0 in last year’s French Open final and playing the veteran German off the court, queried a forehand, called long, on the first point of the next game. The umpire, Anne Lasserre, came down from her chair, inspected the mark and confirmed the point in Graf’s favour.

Ordinarily, apart from a typically annoyed toss of the Hingis head or a swish of her racket, this would have been the end of the matter. But against all seeming reason the Swiss teenager protracted the argument and then broke the rules by coming round the net to indicate what she believed to be the correct mark. It was an act of unmitigated folly.

The 16,000 fans on the court centrale of Roland Garros were already on the side of Graf, if only for nostalgic reasons, although there remained more than a whiff of resentment in the Paris air against Hingis, who earlier in the year at the Australian Open had rashly referred to the French youngster and beaten finalist Amelie Mauresmo as “half a man”.

Fiercely believing herself to be right about the call — and the ball almost certainly was in — Hingis compounded the rapidly increasing hostility by plonking herself down on her chair and refusing to budge. Eventually, after stern warnings of immediate disqualification, the tournament referee Gilbert Ysern and Britain’s Georgina Clark of the Women’s Tennis Association tour persuaded her to resume.

The tide of emotion was now set fair and square behind Graf and, although Hingis served for the match, the German staged a wildly popular comeback, winning 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Hingis fled the court, slapping a WTA official in the process, although her mother and coach Melanie eventually dragged her errant daughter back on court for the award ceremony, with Hingis sobbing on her shoulder. Two weeks later, after a rift with her mother, who was absent from courtside, Hingis was beaten 6-2, 6-0 in the first round at Wimbledon by the 16-year-old Australian qualifier Jelena Dokic.

Now Hingis is preparing herself for a return to the red clay of Roland Garros, starting May 29, in an attempt to win the one major title to elude her.

The split with her mother was quickly healed but Hingis has since lost, regained and lost again her world No1 spot to Lindsay Davenport, and the last of her five grand slam titles came more than 15 months ago in Australia. The former Can’t Miss Swiss might aptly be renamed the Swiss Miss Can’t.

Andre Agassi has remarked that one of the most difficult aspects of tennis is that “you have to grow up in public”. Hingis is still only 19 and there is growing evidence that last year’s traumas, both on and off the court, have led to a greater self-understanding. Asked if she could forgive the French crowd for turning against her last year she replied: “Well, I hope they have forgiven me.”

To make sense of what happened in that final it is necessary to take into account two factors: the intensity of her desire to win the title and her previously uncomfortable relationship with Graf or, perhaps more accurately, with Graf’s reputation and record.

Unlike the German, Hingis is not a great athlete; nor does she have Graf’s weight of shot. Consequently, when she reeled off three grand slam titles in 1997 and was denied the full grand slam by having been beaten in the French Open final by Croatia’s Iva Majoli, she was aware of those who argued that her sudden rise to prominence had occurred only because Graf was injured.

The rise and rise of the Williams sisters and the resurgence of Davenport, another huge hitter, added fuel to the argument, with Hingis struggling to cope with their combined power.

So when, for the first time, she found herself facing Graf over the net in a grand slam final, she was bursting to prove a point, even if Graf was on the point of retirement. What better moment could there have been for Hingis to win her first French title than by beating the German, and what other explanation could there be for her remarkable loss of control when she was apparently cruising to victory?

The backlash of the Graf defeat saw the relationship with her mother briefly severed, followed by the humiliation of defeat by Dokic. Yet, at this very moment of blackest, bleakest adversity, Graf’s retirement drew the line under the past that Hingis’s defeat at Roland Garros had failed to do. Suddenly there was a future.

Hingis has a talent which in the modern blast-and-pass game is virtually unique. “I have never played anybody who has a sense for the court the way she has, not anybody,” said Graf. Yet this may not be enough. For, as in the men’s game, power is the potent force.

The first intimations of troubles ahead for Hingis came three years ago, and again it was Roland Garros which provided the stage. After winning the Australian Open, her first grand slam title, Hingis had a riding accident and arrived in Paris some way short of full fitness. She nevertheless reached the final, only to find herself run into the ground by an inspired Majoli.

This defeat, which saw Hingis stretched to the limits of her physical capacity, later became a template for others, notably for Venus and Serena Williams and especially Davenport, who revolutionised her training techniques to add mobility to her intrinsic power. Her demolition of Hingis in this year’s Australian Open bordered on the dismissive.

There is invariably a time, as champions establish themselves, when winning is a lark, a breeze. “Things are flying and perhaps they come a little too easy,” said Graf. This happened to Hingis, who admits: “There was nothing which I could improve on, so I was taking it easy. I didn’t even practice much.”

Her mother was not entirely happy but figured that, while her daughter was winning with such ease, there was no point forcing the issue of practice and training and risking teenage tantrums or, worse still, alienation. Such were Hingis’s supreme gifts that she could, and still can, beat the majority of players, and beat them comprehensively, by sheer technical brilliance and a tennis brain of formidable acuity.

Hingis has yet to beat both Williams sisters during the course of a tournament. Yet, despite losing to Serena Williams in last year’s US Open final, and then to Lindsay Davenport in Australia, Hingis believes she is on the right road to extend her record of five grand slam wins (Australia 1997, 98, 99, Wimbledon 97 and the US Open 97).

She spends little time in Switzerland these days, preferring to be in Slovakia, where she was born, or in Florida, and has been dating the Czech ice hockey player Pavel Kubina. She says: “I think athletes in general understand the lifestyle and what you have to do to be at the top. There is very little amount of time to spend together and enjoy yourself, so that’s hard for another person to understand.”

Hingis is not worrying about the past any more. “I’m just looking to the future.’’ More than at any other time before, this now entails a much more detailed and professional approach to the sport. “I don’t think anybody understands tennis as well as my mom, especially my game. She likes to be perfect and for me to focus 100% on all I do.”

Melanie and her partner Mario Widmer scout Hingis’s opponents and bring that knowledge to practice. “I stopped doing that for a while because I wasn’t very much into talking about tennis,” says Hingis. “But now I feel good about myself and I want to do it and enjoy it.” It is a recurring mantra.

Hingis was a champion as a junior and has never lost the belief that she is the best, even though it wavered last year. With millions of dollars in the bank she might have been tempted, as the Williams sisters seem to be, to retire early. Certainly it is highly unlikely she will continue playing as long as Graf, who was 30 when she packed in last year.

There are no promises and no certainties. She is taking one tournament at a time. But how dearly she would love to be proclaimed the winner at Roland Garros on June 10.

— Guardian News Service
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NSFs need to change outlook
By Ramu Sharma

WITH few exceptions the sports federations in the country have failed to grow with the times. While some of them still stand rooted in archaic traditions, some others refuse room for fresh ideas in the fear that they would result in a transformation which would threaten the very survival of the old order. One could have understood the reservations or the hesitancy to fall in line with the changing order if these federations had observed their own rules to the letter.

The Government in recent times has been very accommodating. Unable perhaps to supply the full quantum of aid to the federations it has opened up new avenues, offering various financial concessions to the corporate sector units willing to support sport in the country. And the results have been very encouraging with even games like athletics, hockey, football and others attracting financial simulation for conducting competition at national and international level.

But sponsorship and aid is a two-way process. Just as the government always insisted on knowing how the money given as aid was spent, the sponsors too would like to be sure that the money they dole out is used correctly and by people who are fully devoted to the cause of the discipline concerned.

And it is here that questions are likely to be asked and answers demanded. How many federations have kept their house in order? Are they following any guidelines of their own now that the government no longer insists on their own guidelines in respect of the terms of office-bearers being followed? Is there any attempt to balance the sheets in terms of work done and undone, or not done? And more importantly are the office-bearers fully qualified to hold on to the offices they have been elected, nominated or thrust upon. And what is the output during the years they have held office?

It would be interesting to know how many federations are giving a full account of their functioning to their sponsors and whether all those doling out money are happy with the answers? One of the pre-requisites to the proper functioning of any federation lies in holding regular meetings and having elections as and when due. And at the same time also to ensure that the democratic norms are strictly adhered to in these elections.

It is imperative that federations modernise their set-up, become more professional in approach if the sport they are administering and promoting has to be sold to the public. Federations must be financially independent and self sufficient in allied means. Very few federations appear to realise the need for a full-time paid secretary with a thorough knowledge of all aspects of the concerned discipline, someone who is ready with all the answers, technical or otherwise. Then there is the urgent need for federations to raise money on their own and have at least some of the essential, moveable, collapsable equipment at a suitable warehouse for emergency use. So far the federations are altogether dependent on the local associations selected to host major meets and always run into trouble when important equipment is not available. The athletics federation for instance should be able to provide all electronic gadgets from their own steam instead of always going around with a begging bowl. And mind you their have been meets where the wind gauge is either not available or is not working, or there are not enough stop watches to go around.

The Table Tennis Federation, one remembers, always used to provide quite a bit of equipment, particularly in relation to ceremonial matters, wherever a national or international meet was held. It is a tall order but a beginning must be made. Every federation must be able to generate funds on their own and have their own official equipment. Then there are the case of federation continuing with old retainers if only because of their earlier service to the game. It is good gesture but it is time that younger people stepped in to give a whiff of fresh air to the sport. There are some federations and certain societies which need to be totally overhauled in terms of personnel and unless that is done, the good work done so far will have gone waste. The Nehru Hockey Society for instance could do with some fresh blood to revive the interest in the game at least in Delhi. The older lot and those who started it have done a wonderful job but one gets the feeling that the responsibility is telling on them. By all means they should continue to be associated with the show but the actual work could be done by younger people.

A change in outlook is needed in most federations and some societies and that can only come if those involved in the show are willing to accept new ideas, younger people and a professional approach. The federations must be manned only by those who are fully knowledgeable about the concerned discipline. The government and the companies sponsoring their meets should insist on a minimum level of efficiency and accountability. Then only can the full impost of the government’s largesse in terms of tax relief can be really appreciated.
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Teeing-off
by K.R. Wadhwaney
Rohtas Singh still going strong

Rohtas Singh is a ‘dada’ of Indian professional golf, particularly Delhi golf. He is an outstanding Mayor. His accomplishments are several for the past more than than 25 years. During his illustrious career, he has achieved more than 100 wins and he is still going strong.

Friendly, pleasant and always wearing a smile, Rohtas takes part in all competitions, big and small. The greatest virtue that he possesses is that he exercises moderation — in win and in defeat. He seldom complaints or cribs. A fine conversationist, he a good company to talk golf.

Achiever of many heroic deeds, the one that Rohtas vividly remembers and talks about is the 1975 DCM-open at Delhi. He and S.K. Noni were deadlocked at nine over-par after four days of gruelling 72 holes. Play-off had to be gone through to get the winner. He managed to win when he was merely 17 years.

The prize money was Rs 2500 then. He was congratulated and presented Rs 200 to make merry. The rest of the money was deposited in fixed deposit for three years as he was considered too young to carry the “burden of Rs 2300”! He says all this in his typical style and says that those were the days of happiness and joy free from present-day cult for money.

The year 1977 was lucky for him as he won a sizeable number of tournaments. In 1985, he bagged 10 titles. “The competition then was not as tough and widespread as now”, admits Rohtas Singh, adding: “But then the atmosphere was so congenial and lovely”.

In 1991 at Hyderabad, Calcutta’s Feroz Ali was ahead by four shots with only three holes remaining. Then luck befriended Rohtas. He had three birdies while Feroz Ali fumbled to a par, par and bogey. Another play-off and the title was Rohtas Singh’s.

Ms Rohtas was in the labour room for the second child when the DCM Open was in progress at Delhi in 1987. The news of the arrival of a “boy” on the fifth hole gave him the needed pep in his play and he came from behind to pip Basad Ali at the post in the play-off.

Rohtas Singh’s style of play is not exactly copybook. But he has his own style and he is comfortable with it. His swing is said to be unorthodox but he does not care much at this stage. What eggs him to go on is that he still has the desire to win and win more tournaments. In the recent tournament in Nepal, he has involved in a three-tier play-off with Harmeet Kahlon and Feroz. But luck smiled on him and he bagged the title.

A member on the committee of the Professional Golfers Association of India (PGAI), Rohtas Singh has contributed a great deal for the professional golf to take on in the country. In the meetings, he gives his mind without showing any favour to any one.

Rohtas Singh, sporting as he is, bears a grudge in his mind. He feels—and perhaps rightly—that he has deserved the Arjuna award more than money that have been ‘bestowed’. But then he is not the only one who has suffered at the hands of the Arjuna Award committee. There are many who have been ignored, while non-entities have been given the award. May be, the PGAI should press for his getting the award. It depends upon the PGAI to make up a fool-proof case for him. He richly deserves it.

Randhawa unlucky

Jyoti Randhawa was in the hunt for a title at Shanghai. But England’s Simon Dyson had the last laugh. He putted a eight-footer for par and won the title. The $ 400,000 Volvo China open, leaving Randhawa on the second spot. Dyson, however, became the third man to secure two consecutive wins on the Davidoff Tour.
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SPORT MAIL

Hockey team’s showing praiseworthy
India were unlucky to go down to Korea 2-3 in the final of the junior men’s Asia Cup Hockey Tournament at Kuala Lumpur. Exhibiting good, fast and scintillating hockey, India earned a penalty stroke in the 20th minute. But Arjun Halappa muffed it. Had that stroke been converted the outcome of the match would have been different. Despite that costly blunder India surged ahead when Bimal Lakra converted another stroke. But India could not hold on to that lead for long as the nippy Koreans neutralised the lead in quick retaliation. India, who played true to potential in the forward line, midfield and defence until the final, were left rattled and shattered when Korea struck twice in the closing stages of the match. Chinks in their defence proved too dear against the well-organised Korean attack and the classy forwardline squandered several opportunities. Such factors denied India a chance to lift the cup for the first time.

Tarsem S Bumrah
Batala

II

In the junior men’s Asia Cup Hockey Tournament, India lost to Korea by a 2-3 margin. India played well right from the beginning. It was observed that after taking the lead, India could not maintain it. Of course, the team played well and deserves congratulations but our players need more exposure.

B.M. Singh Narang
Chandigarh

III

The recently concluded men’s junior Asia Cup Hockey tournament provided some consolation win to Indian hockey circles. The Indian juniors went down fighting to favourites South Korea 2-3. No doubt, hockey is a game of luck but it has become a tradition that India always take the lead and fail to maintain it till the final whistle. For all practical purposes, this junior squad will be a feedback channel for the senior squad. Let our hockey bosses provide them excellent coaching with rich incentives.

Dialpura
Sunder Singh

Kapil Dev

India is a country of wild allegations. People tend to believe each one of them even if levelled against a person of immense credibility. The same has happened with Kapil Dev. A person of Kapil’s standing was blamed in a split second and the accusation hit the headlines all over the world thanks to the media, always looking for sensational news. For a public figure, damage stands done as soon as the allegation is made. Kapil’s image has suffered an irreparable damage. Today, we are heading for a situation where anyone gets up, raises a finger at someone and says, ‘‘There goes a thief!’’ Then he sits and watches while the accused begins his endless effort to prove his innocence.

Jagvir Goyal
Lehra Mohabat

II

The allegations of Mr I.S. Bindra, former president of the BCCI, against Kapil Dev are completely baseless and false. Mr Bindra has said that Kapil Dev offered Manoj Prabhakar Rs 25 lakh for throwing a match in 1994. Kapil Dev has devoted his life to cricket and can never do such a shameful deed. One can never forget his great performances from time to time. He, on many occasions, single-handed brought victory for India.

Rajdeep Singh
Phagwara

III

Watching Kapil Dev weeping during an interview on TV reminded me of George Bernard Shaw’s comments on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi: ‘‘It is too dangerous to be too good’’. That is how this world treats great persons be they Gandhi, Christ or Kapil. The likes of such great persons serve humanity with their sweat, sacrifice and wisdom.

M.N. Chopra
Hamira


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