Stars run out of steam
This yearís Wimbledon will occupy a special place in the hearts of tennis fans. The legendary Martina Navratilova returned to singles after 10 long years and the flamboyant Goran Ivanisevic bade goodbye to the game in his inimitable style, writes
The Wimbledon Championship this year will primarily be remembered for two reasons. The return of 47-year-old Martina Navratilova to singles at her beloved championship after 10 years and crowd favourite Goran Ivanisevic bidding goodbye to his favourite tournament in his trademark style.
Navratilova, after her French Open first round exit, showed all that she still had traces of the talent and style that netted her nine singles titles here. Nearing the half-century mark, she still served and volleyed with aplomb. Competing with players less than half her age made no difference to the legend.
She may not have been able to go beyond the second round but she has set precedents which will be tough to follow for others. Navratilova made her debut at Wimbledon in 1973. That she was still competing at the top level after 31 years is beyond comparison.
The maverick Croat Ivanisevic endured pain to come back to the tournament where he has experienced intense ecstasy and agony.
The agony years were 1992, 1994 and 1998. He invariably came off second best to Americans Andre Agassi (1992) and Pete Sampras (1994, 98).
Ecstasy came in 2001. After famously having made a pact with God (that if he won the title he would not mind if he never played again), he triumphed in a five-setter against Pat Rafter. That he was able to take the centre stage was due to the benevolence of the organisers, who gave him a wild card.
After a magical two weeks, he wrote his name on the prized trophy, the first wild card in the history of the championship to do so. In the process, the fans and the champion came across the third Goran. After the good Goran and the bad Goran came the level-headed Goran who would try to keep peace between the two warring Gorans.
The split personality from the town of Split in Croatia later said God had heard him too well. Ivanisevic could not return to defend his title, injuries took over. It was time for him to keep his side of the pact.
The popular champion returned this year, courtesy the organisers, who gave him a wild card again. He did not disappoint the faithful. He recreated the magic initially again, stealing the limelight from the defending champion Roger Federer.
He bid goodbye on his favourite Centre Court, bowing out to a younger and fitter Lleyton Hewitt.
The Croat went out in his own style as he knew his time was up. He donned a Croatian football shirt, waving to all corners of the court. He had fulfilled his wish of returning to the Centre Court once again.
The tennis world
will miss the entertainer, who once broke so many rackets during a match
that he had to forfeit the tie. He will be remembered as much for his
booming serve and sublime skills as his antics on the court, his scowl
and the ready smile.
Stars run out of steam
Euro 2004 was expected to be spectacular. It certainly has been, though in an unexpected manner. It made stars of unknowns while proving to be the undoing of the heroes. The big names were the biggest casualty. European powerhouses bit the dust while minnows roared, making the world take notice of them.
Ageing stars failed to find their magical skills while greenhorns kept their nerve under pressure, as if trying to teach a thing or two to the experienced.
Spain, Italy and Germany made way back home after the first round itself while England and France followed them at the next stage.
The big failures:
Zinedine Zidane: World's best and most expensive player failed to leave his mark on the tournament. At 32, it was probably the last Euro for the ageing star. He did shine against traditional rivals England when his injury-time goals snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Apart from that, he rarely looked like the player who had inspired Les Bleus. Croatia almost won against the French, which the Greeks finally did. The French squad sunk with an off-colour Zidane.
Thierry Henry: He may have scored prolifically for Arsenal, but for Les Bleus he looked disastrously out of form. Starved of passes from the midfield, he rarely looked threatening. He failed to transfer the hype into reality and the defending champions went home after the quarterfinals.
David Beckham: The poster boy of football failed to deliver when England needed him the most. The old penalty jinx struck him not once but twice. He failed to convert a penalty against France, which could have saved his country from defeat. The England captain, trying to lead from the front, failed as he shot high in the penalty shoot-out against Portugal in the quarterfinals. Beckham blamed the turf for the ignominy, saying the earth moved. It was time for Beckham and England to return home.
Raul: The perennial under-achiever, a half-fit Raul's presence was hardly felt. The poor season for Real Madrid was extended to his country. Spain sorely missed his flair and skills. Spain also toyed with not starting with him, an idea which was unthinkable before the tournament. Spain and Raul were not synonymous with each other any more.
Francesco Totti: Hardly had the tournament begun that the Italian forward was grounded. Totti spat at his Danish opponent and the cameras caught it. Ridiculed and banned for three matches, he was forced to see the Italian campaign end from the spectators' gallery. It only added to the repertoire of Totti jokes.
Christian Vierri: The Italian forward along with Alessandro Del Pierro failed to carry the burden without partner Totti.
Italians missed the penetration and flair of the duo to end up looking pedestrian.
Michael Owen: Till the Euro began he was expected to be the mainstay of the English attack. When the matches the hype surrounding the forward took a severe beating. Rooney stole the show, as he was hailed the next big find by England. Owen had travelled a long way as a few years earlier he was the find. Owenís presence was hardly registered at the tournament.
Oliver Kahn: The headline-grabbing captain-goalkeeper of the German squad made a few mistakes which cost them the matches. He was coming off a bad season for his club with doubts over his form.
Kahn didnít look impregnable in the goal and the few fumbles which wily opponents duely took advantage of to score. It seemed the personal troubles didnít help his form at the Euro. Kahn went back with a big question if he was still the number one goalkeeper for Germany.
Michael Ballack: Before the start of the
tournament, Ballack told his team-mates it would be too much to expect
him to carry the German hopes alone. In any case he did not show the
eagerness or the work ethic for it. No wonder Germany had such a short
stay in Portugal. ó RG
Why promote only cricket?
Newspapers, the government and Doordarshan have put cricket on top of their agenda. Some people are also crazy over the Ďlazyí manís game. Perhaps the game was promoted by rich countries for recreation. Unluckily it has been adopted by poor countries.
The game is not only limited to a few hours but to days at times. People can be seen sitting before their T.V. sets. Hawkers and rickshaw pullers too can be seen with transistors listening to the commentary. People sacrifice important jobs and domestic chores for the sake of this game. I hold our government responsible for this mess. It is pity that scheduled programmes are suspended during cricket matches, whereas even highlights of other games and competition are not telecast by Doordarshan.
People desire to view various sports competitions on DD-1 since it is the channel of the masses. DD-Sports is not available to the common man.
Bansi Ram, Garhshanker
Brian Laraís knock of 400 had stunned the entire world. It is perhaps the rarest of rare achievements that may not be repeated in the near future. In fact, the Carribeans have produced a number of excellent cricketers and now, Lara is a step ahead of others. His predecssors like Gary Sobers, Clive Llyod, Alvin Kalicharan, Vivian Richards, Gordon Greendige and Desmond Haynes have contributed immensely to world cricket. The stamina and patience for a firm stand on the crease is seen in players like Lara and Sachin Tendulkar.