Roger Federer is still a champion.
Flying under the radar, the 17-time Grand Slam winner fought tooth and nail taking the championship match into the final set last Sunday.
Novak Djokovic may have clinched his seventh Slam. But no guesses for who walked away with the plaudits and the kudos.
Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov are amongst heirs-in-waiting to the Big Four. But for now, they are just that.
Brazil’s shocking disintegration against Germany in the semi-final and the consequent shellacking had their fans in tears.
No consolation for them in the third place match either. Holland walked away with the honours—a meeting their coach Van Gaal derided as leaving one team feeling a loser despite having reached the semi-finals. His exact words:
“But the worst thing is, I believe, that chances are that you lose twice in a row. A tournament where you’ve played so marvellously well, that you go home as a loser just because you could possibly lose the last two matches. So, this has got nothing whatsoever to do with sports, not in my view.”
It’s Germany versus Argentina tonight in the final. Two former champions, two great gladiatorial sides.
Germany hold the edge on current form. But Argentina have Lionel Messi.
The Barca galactico was completely out of sorts in the quarters and the semis; the man-to-man marking rendering him ineffectual. Can he do a Maradona and take Argentina home?
Knock-out games are less about scoring and more about attrition. It’s about waiting and hoping that your opponent makes a mistake and then capitalising on it and drawing the shutters down.
That’s how Holland and Argentina played out their semi-final. It made for extremely boring viewing. Van Gaal repeated the mistakes of the 2010 final against Spain when Holland played hard and foul ruining any possibility of their moment in the sun. Hoping to win on penalties should be a strategy for relative minnows such as Costa Rica, not for the team that has dazzled the world with its brand of Total Football over the past four decades.
The first Test Match between India and England got underway this week at Trent Bridge.
The hosts presented the visitors an Indian wicket: flat and lifeless.
The match has already produced a record of sorts. The final wicket partnerships in the first innings produced two hundred-plus partnerships.
If Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami showed that the wicket held no devils, Joe Root and Jimmy Anderson rubbed in the curator Steven Birk’s face in it with their world record stand of 198—the highest ever in Test cricket.
Birks copped some criticism for the state of the wicket.
“We wanted to produce a pitch with pace, bounce and carry which hasn’t happened unfortunately. There’s quite a lot of moisture underneath but it’s a hard surface on top which is why it’s lacking pace. The moisture readings taken earlier in the week were quite high and we haven’t seen enough of the sun to really bake it out.”
Ian Botham’s take on the pitch:
“You might as well be playing in Chennai with this wicket.”
Jimmy Anderson had similar views:
“Two days out we could see the pitch was not going to have huge amount of pace in it. That is something you just got to try and put out of your mind. We are as frustrated as everyone else watching.”
Has the mandate to ensure matches last into the final day hastened the death of Test cricket? Indian fans stayed away—their ratio a paltry 10:90.
Draws occur in Tests all the time. It’s the nature of the result that makes all the difference to the enthusiasts.
“A bad Board lets a good side down”
“RIP. World’s No.1 Test Team”
“India surrender No. 1 Test Spot”
“Humiliation is complete, No.1 crown lost”
The headlines in the DNA, Times Of India, Hindustan Times and Indian Express read as above on an Independence Sunday, for the Indian cricket fan to fully absorb a dismal, abrupt, abject end to the Indian team’s pretensions to greatness.
The knives are out, reams of analysis will be printed, experts will make a million suggestions and scapegoats will be discovered and punished over the coming weeks and months.
Should the surrender be total, and it is certainly more than a mere possibility despite MS Dhoni’s brave words at the post-match conference, the stewardship of the Indian cricket team would be on the line.