Finally, Murray got the monkey off not just his back, but Britain’s, and I am sure, he would have been more relieved than happy after winning the US Open and thus his country’s first men’s Slam title in 76 years. Phew! I can imagine the British media going to town on this for days on end, because they haven’t had much to celebrate otherwise.
Until he took the gold medal at the Olympics, Murray never quite looked the part as a champion tennis player. Perhaps, the lack of charisma and his tendency to mumble rather than talk with clarity have much to do with his image as an also-ran. His emotional win in London, followed by the one in New York has given the Scot an entry into the Grand Slam Club, something he had coveted all these years.
If the Sunday’s final would be remembered, then it is not so much for the quality of tennis as the landmark that Murray reached by defeating Djokovic. It wouldn’t be rated as an “epic” or a “great” final, but I am sure, for Murray, it wouldn’t matter much how it is described. After all, he took the big step forward from being a “top player” to a “Slam winner”.
Is men’s tennis in a transitional phase with the baton being passed from Federer to the new generation? I would like to believe it is so, but then, with the Swiss maestro, you never can tell. His defeat in the quarter-finals was a shocker, no doubt, but I feel he has another couple of years of top quality tennis left in him and it would surprise none if Federer reaches the magical figure of 20 singles Slam titles before he quits tennis.
As for Murray, one must salute his persistence and self-belief that kept him chipping away, and he probably made a decisive move by hiring Lendl as his coach earlier this year. Having Lendl in his corner has certain made a huge difference to Murray’s fortunes that I feel have turned north. In the next season, we might be seeing a “new” Murray who will be a worthy contender for the No.1 spot.
While Murray was on his victory march, nearer home, we had Yuvraj making a comeback after successfully battling a rare form of cancer. Though looking a bit overweight, Yuvraj had a decent game in the Chennai T20 bash that the Kiwis won by one run. He was huffing and puffing, but looked to be in good touch.
For sure, it has been a fairytale return to international cricket for Yuvraj whose cricket career looked set for a premature finish last year. Happily though, he overcame the odds to get back into the Indian team. Fortunately, he had age and natural fitness on his side when he underwent chemotherapy that can be quite painful and distressing with lots of side-effects like hair loss. At Chepauk, Yuvraj looked a tad short on fitness, but we can expect him to work on that in the weeks ahead.
More significantly, it was good to see him maintain his composure given the emotional moment when he finally stepped on to the field at Chepauk after the previous game was washed out. He didn’t get too excited and even his batting was well very composed. Though he was lucky to have a catch dropped, the trademark six over midwicket was an emphatic statement at Yuvraj was back in business.
Yuvraj will have a pivotal role to play in the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka beginning next week. His ability to hit the big shots and also bowl four tidy overs of left-arm spin make him a valuable player, though I am not sure if he is fit enough to field like he used to prior to his cancer treatment. He might get there yet, but not in a hurry.
So then, we now move to Sri Lanka where India would be starting out as one of the firm favourites. The format being a lottery, it is difficult to predict the winner or for that matter outcome of any match as form on the day will be the influential factor and not so much the track record or reputations.
If anything, Dhoni’s men will have to play out of their skins to regain the Cup they had last won in 2007 when the event was held for the first time. Over the years, courtesy the IPL, the T20 game has acquired some sophistication in contrast to the perceived slam-bang village cricket. Whatever, we can expect three weeks of highly charged cricket and here’s hoping that the best team wins.