A seemingly innocuous day in my life, which generally starts at around 1pm everyday, started at 8:30am today. Why? Because I had demons of horror Visa interviews malign me through the night and the fact that I wanted to be punctual for an interview for once. Well, it is not as much an interview as it is just dropping off the right set of documents at the counter so that the British High Commission can process it at their Chennai office and make or break a husband’s plan 🙂 (Trip to Cayman Islands it is and the beach already beckons, if only they allow).
With eyes full of sleep (my quick calculation showed that I had slept for 4 hours only), I proceeded to do my first ritual of the day. Definitely not a trip to restroom with the white porcelain staring at me, but rather picking up what my wife thinks of as the “other one” in our relationship, the iPhone. Going through emails, whatsapp threads, Facebook notifications, Twitter stream is what gets me started and is also the cause of maximum fights with The wife.
“Go watch the match”, screamed the whatsapp thread. My lousy brain looked inside its deep recesses of knowledge and still couldn’t comprehend what match was being talked about. Football, No, not so early in the day. Cricket, could be but that is generally not discussed on the thread. Badminton, Table Tennis, Foosball (we have been playing an awful lot of foosball in office lately) ?? A few more strokes of the fingers and I found out which match was being referred to.
Nadal vs Federer. Quarter-Finals at Indian Wells (ATP 1000 Masters event.. In simple terms, a very prestigious event). Woaah! So Nadal did manage to reach the quarter finals, even with his creaking knees. By the way, I am a Nadal fan, a huge one at that. Mistook him for a WWE wrestler early on, but realized that he couldn’t be one with that lame bandana and the constant twitching of his shorts 🙂 We had been discussing the draw in office, where a few Fed-Tards let me know that Federer could meet Nadal in the Qfs since Nadal had slipped out of Top 4 for the first time in decades (years). So it was finally happening.
“Please leave home by 10, so that you can pick me up from office by 10:40 and we can be at the Visa office by 11:45 [we had an 12:10 appointment]”. Precise message from the only punctual person in the house. The tone of the message was mellow, but one NOT to be played with. I switched on the TV and saw Nadal whipping a trademark fore-hand winner past the hapless Swiss. As Nadal was serving for the first set having just broken Federer at 5-4, the mind went into Aside mode. Woaah!! This could be the return of the Spanish warrior. How I have waited for his return. The Australian Open was boring without him (a fact acknowledged by a lot of people). The human element (the will to fight it out against all odds, to chase back every ball hit back at you) is lost in the sport without Nadal since I am sure Djokovic is definitely a Cybernet bot (with adamantium inserted in the arms and legs re-inforced by carbon-fibre), Federer is too much finesse for his age and Murray still relenting in letting go of his virginity. The rest don’t even deserve a mention. What an emotional victory this would be. But wait, this is just the first set. Atleast one more to go. Lets not get ahead of ourselves here.
A quick time check showed me that I had around 40-45 mins of watching time, before I had to begin the morning ablutions. Probably I could skip it and just shave my Bengali beard to look clean and proper. This could be give me some extra time to continue watching the match. The plan was hatched and all corner cases taken care of.
Nadal easily served out the first set. While doing so there was this one particular rally where Federer blasted what looked like a certain fore-hand winner. Nadal in no-position to retrieve and on his haunches however just pushed it past Federer for an incredible pass. All down to the legendary strength of the knee (ironic) and the wrists. Absolute Madness. Nadal looked fit. He was chasing down balls and looked comfortable in long rallies. The vicious top-spin to Federer’s backhand was working nicely. The passes were accurate. Importantly, he looked calm and composed.
The 2nd set began and carnage continued. Not as much carnage as it was self-destruction. 3 bad errors from Fedex and Nadal suddenly led 1-0 in the 2nd set. Nadal consolidated the break without any difficulty. All this while a lot of chatter was going on, on a whatsapp thread. Nadal fans were loving it and the Federer fans on the thread, well they were just looking for some straws to survive and compete. Things ranging from Nadal’s knee could break down any moment to Federer’s forehand could return any moment were being pointed out. At one point of time, the conversation got a little more personal where one of the Federer supporters pointed out:
Liking Nadal is great but don’t see a reason to hate Fed!
With Federer not having a good time on the court, I could understand the frustration, but this was just ridiculously funny. I could post a lot of intercepts from the conversation that followed, but that would be digressing from what was happening in the match. Federer sensing that the match was fast slipping away, started going for big shots and serves. But Nadal kept hitting to the back-hand with ferocious top-spin, all part of a very predictable plan, waiting for Federer to make the error, and predictably so, he did. Federer, unsettled by the riposte started to make forays to the net, but Nadal kept passing him. The final point of the 3rd service game was played picture perfect by Nadal where he yanked Federer from side to side and then finished him off with a wonderful pass with Federer, strangely making another failed advance to the net. Nadal was up with the double-break!
However, Nadal-Federer matches are known for their drama and they at times play out to a Bollywood script. With Federer 3-0 down in the 2nd set, the script changed suddenly and Nadal lost the plot for a bit. Federer’s fore-hand came back and Nadal’s took a time-out. In the blink of an eye Federer got back one of the breaks and he went on to consolidate it as well. From 3-0 to 3-2 in a blip and suddenly Nadal not looking in control anymore. If Ravi Shashtri were there, he would have made the erstwhile comment about
“Momentum now with Federer”..
9:00am on the clock and I didn’t have enough time to continue watching the match. I prayed so that Nadal could get his focus back on court and it happened. Nadal regained his composure and the plan of attack to take the 6th game. He somehow just squeezed it out. Then God intervened and Federer was broken again. The crucial break came from a really bad Federer error on the volley. I really haven’t seen him missing those in ages. Definitely devine intervention from above 😀
With Nadal serving for the match at 5-2, it could only go in one direction and it did.
With jubilation all around, both on the court and on the whatsapp thread, I felt happy. This was a very satisfying victory for my favorite tennis player (after Pete Sampras of course!) and considering the fact that he was barely able to walk 9 months back, it made the victory all the more special. Athletes have an uncanny ability to lift the spirits of their fans and they bring with them the gift of spreading joy when they do well. I conveniently ignored the fact that it was already 9:20am and that I was definitely late as per the laid out plan. However, I chose to bask in the glory of this special victory for a few more minutes with thoughts flooding from the French Open wins to the Wimbledon win. I felt upbeat about everything. So much so, that it spilled over to the entire day. My wife found it weird that I was so gay and abuzz when driving her to the Visa office, while she was slightly nervous as she generally is ahead of any sort of examination. Later, she found out the reason. The Spanish Warrior had returned. And in Style!