At the very outset, have an admission to make.
2020 – an unprecedented year for obvious reasons – has been a memorable year with a meaningful, positive impact as far as personal fitness is concerned. I know many friends/acquaintances who are on the same boat which quite frankly emanates a breath of fresh air in a year that we all went through. Don’t worry, this ain’t another blog about Covid-19 (acronym derived from “coronavirus disease 2019”).
Just to gloat a bit more – I have become an ardent runner, weekly bike-rider, thrice a week HIIT addict (please don’t miss the extra I there before jumping to conclusions) and playing weekly the sport I have loved watching since I was 9 – Tennis!
One hour of the game, albeit the low quality, and be rest assured, I have earned the right to grab that beer!
Which takes me to the core of this blog…
Watching horde of matches in the last 3 decades or so, picking the most memorable one was as tough an ask as trying to answer my father’s question pertaining to Physics before the exam day.
Quite a few of us would remember numerous tussles among the protagonists of the golden era of Men’s Tennis – Fedex, Rafa and Djoko. However, the one which is imprinted in my memory – easy to recollect due to the fact that it turned out to be the longest match played in Women’s Singles in a Grand Slam -is the one which transpired between Francesca Schiavone(FS) and Svetlana Kuznetsova(SK) to grab a place in the Quarter Finals of Australian Open, 2011.
4 hrs and 44 minutes for a 3-set match in the sultry heat of January in Melbourne. Very few scenarios in the world of sport which can get tougher than that.
Few quick facts about these two stalwarts and the match:
- FS saved a whopping 6 match points and the 3rd and final set went on for more than 3 hours long (2 football matches or 2 basketball matches or a full fledged Bollywood movie can be covered in that amount of time).
- FS was seeded 6th vis a vis 23rd seeding for SK.
- Grand Slam Record : FS had 1 grand slam under her kitty (French Open, 2010) whereas SK was a 2 time Grand Slam Champion (US Open, 2004 and French Open 2009).
- Current Status : FS is currently retired whereas the Russian legend is still at it (now aged 35 and ranked 36th in the world).
- Career Span : FS played for 20 years straight(retired in 2018) and SK is currently in her 20th year as a professional (Astonishing!)
- Career Win % : FS’s 56% vs SK’s 65%
- Career Prize Money : SK is currently at #10 in the all time highest earners’ list and this is the facet I find the most fascinating. It is all her sheer endurance and grit that in spite of never becoming World #1 and pocketing 2 Grand Slams only, she has been able to breakthrough into Top 10 of that elite list. She is currently the 3rd oldest player on women’s circuit (after the legendary Williams’ sisters).What all this reminds us of is this…It’s the small victories everyday which are paramount for an individual’s all round development. There have been considerable number of cases in Tennis where a star gets born by winning a Grand Slam against all odds, gets all the fame along with a few endorsements and instantly fades away into obscurity. It needs a colossal amount of resolve and dedication to not get carried away and have a laser-focus approach to the next task (tournament) at hand. Remember, small wins everyday add up. Not trying to be Simon Sinek here but there is no ONE standard rule for everyone. Experiment.Experiment.Experiment till a model fits you perfectly.FS is a unique character on her own. I used to drool over her one-handed backhand, an art which is dying in tennis as we speak.Just to put into context. One-handed backhand is as exquisite a stroke as the following:a) Eiffel Tower, Paris/Taj Mahal, Agra/Venice, Italyb) A well set Caramel Custardc) Northern Lights, Iceland/Norwayd) Julia Roberts in Pretty Womane) Any jewellery item from Cartier (cheesy line!)Point being…Its a stroke which has a novelty to it now. A triumph over vulnerability. Difficult skill to master but does look pleasing to the eye. But then Tennis is not a beauty contest either. FS belongs to a rare breed of one-handed backhand Grand Slam Champions in women’s tennis.An article on a few legends with this rare craft by Marco Amaro!A rare breed!The Italian warrior and the Russian workaholic did give us a treat of high tempo, high quality game. Sport is a zero-sum game – there has to be a loser for a winner to be produced – and this game had a winner in FS coming on top. At the end, they embraced and respected each other’s effort so immensely that the joy of victory and the agony of loss was nowhere to be seen. Sportsman spirit at its ultimate best! (“Sportsman Spirit” as a term needs to be looked at closely and so does “Mankind”). That’s for another day.