By Sunil Gavaskar
Roger Federer’s 15th win in a major was a hard fought one. Andy Roddick, who in the past has been swept aside by Federer played an inspired match and was unlucky to lose out after a match lasting 4 hours and twenty minutes. By the end of the match there were many who would have wanted Roddick to win because of the way he had hung in there but that wasn’t to be. Many also wanted the American to win because he had never won the tournament before and just like the last three or four years at the French Open when just about everybody wanted Federer to win the feeling for Roddick was pretty much the same.
The French Open was the one major that had been eluding Federer and with Nadal having already won it before, the public was for Federer to win it at least once. That happened this year and so Federer has all the four majors in his bag and has a career slam which only a handful of players have achieved. Federer had to contend with questions being asked about Nadal’s absence in the French Open where the left-hander was knocked out in an earlier round and at the All England where injury prevented him from playing in the tournament. Federer was quick to realise what the angle of the question was and replied that he can only play the man across the net and if it wasn’t Nadal that was hardly his fault. At the French Open he beat the guy who beat Nadal so in a way he could claim that he bested the one who had bettered Nadal, so even if Nadal was to be in the finals he could have done that. The beauty of sport is the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ that come with it and while that is predominantly so in cricket, even other sports have that factor that allows fans and supporters to let their minds wander and imagine what could have happened if this had not happened or that had not happened.
In cricket there was a time in limited-overs cricket, where if a match was totally washed out and a winner had to be decided, then it was the spin of the coin that was used to decide the winner. Then it was the bowl out which saw India beat Pakistan in the first T20 World Cup in South Africa two years back and now there is the Super Over that decides which team gets the points or goes ahead into the next round of the tournament. There is school of thought that all these are really not fair on the losing teams but they are there simply because nobody has yet to come up with a solution for a perfect decision that makes the better team go through to the next phase. In tennis too when you have a situation where a player does not lose his serve even once but gets beaten in the tie break and again the old timers feel that it is not the best solution and that the set should go on till someone loses his serve and then the opponent holds his to win the set. Roddick was broken only once in the five sets and that cost him the match. On the other hand Federer had been broken in the first set and fourth set and had won the second and third on the tie breaker rule where the games had gone with service till six all. No rule can ever be the perfect solution and with the pressure and demands of a public wanting a result and TV channels wanting to ensure that their other programme scheduling does not get affected, administrators are hard pressed to come up with one that will please everybody including most importantly the players.
The strike called by the West Indies Players’ Association may well mean that a second string team will play in the first Test between West Indies and Bangladesh. It is an unfortunate development and maybe by the time this appears in print it will be sorted out to everybody’s satisfaction. The players’ complaint is that they have gone through four tournaments and series without a contract but then that also brings forth the question why strike now and not earlier. It does give the impression wrong though it may well be that the players don’t rate Bangladesh highly and don’t mind missing out on that series. The one-day series with India got over a few days back and if anything the players could have made a better point by asking for their contracts before that series began for that was the big series even though it was short one. They also had a better chance of getting what they wanted as the West Indian Board would not have diluted the series by looking to play a second string team then, as they are threatening to do now against Bangladesh. Lack of communication between players and administrators is the root cause of problems and one of the main reasons why the Indian team is doing well today is that there is regular communication between the players and administrators and so player grievances are addressed pretty much immediately leaving them free to focus on their game and may it continue that way.
Finally on a personal note. My sincere thanks to all those who called and wished for my birthday and those who have sent greetings. I can’t thank them enough for their good wishes and hope that they will be with me always.