Thursday, January 30, 2014

Old Wine New Bottle

History was made last weekend at the Australian Open Men’s final. Stanislas Wawrinka, still somewhat obscure in the big league despite being ranked among the top ten players in the world, got his name inked on a Grand Slam trophy. And he beat Rafael Nadal to do so, an opponent against whom he had never won a set in their previous 12 encounters. Not to mention his demolition of Djoker in the semi-finals.

But as significant as this achievement was, to me, the bigger accomplishment was that he is now the top-ranked Swiss player, pushing Federer to the second spot.

Yes, read that again. Roger Federer, the nice guy, the classy guy both on and off the court, the guy who epitomized everything Swiss, is no longer the Swiss No.1! Never thought I would live to see such a day.

I think I have ranted about the nice guys in sports enough number of times: be it Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Steven Gerrard, Didier Drogba and of course Federer. So this post is NOT about nice guys, but about their gradual withdrawal from sports as a new generation of power hungry, aggressive and competitive young players take over. So while you simply relish the energy of Eugene Bouchard, Corey Anderson or Julian Draxler, you still miss the legacy of the old horses who became your role models while you were growing up.

But then there are these rare breed of late bloomers who are just tasting success despite being in the circuit for ages. So while you admire the grit and determination of a Li Na, who at 31, just won her second Grand Slam and her first Australian Open or cricketers like George Bailey, David Hussey, James Tredwell or Saeed Ajmal, all of whom burst into the scene much later their contemporaries, you also question their long-term survival in the game. As you see the likes of Venus Williams and Roger Federer gradually fade away in their twilight years after an illustrious career, Li Na or Wawrinka are just getting started. They may not be as graceful or as exciting to watch, but the very fact that they constantly gnaw away, patiently waiting for their chance, never giving up, is inspiration enough.

Youth, dynamism, raw talent: these are synonymous with any sports, but may be, just may be, it’s time to look beyond charisma and stand up for the good old warhorses.

Not because they are old, but because they remind us that the glory of the past is not behind us; just yet…

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