Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stop War and Start Tennis

"Stop war and start tennis" - Indian tennis player Rohan Bopanna and his Pakistani partner Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi said, on the eve of 9/11, as they lost their (very creditably played) US Open final. Simple, heart warming words that one hopes can be implemented!

The Davis Cup world group play offs are round the corner and India is to play Brazil, fortunately on home ground, this weekend. The Brazilian singles players, Thomas Bellucci and Richard Mello are ranked higher than any of the Indians, but let's hope the old Paes-Bhupathi magic still works. The duo have had spats in the past, but do come together generally at Davis cup time. They seem happy to play in Chennai and discussed ownership rights of the city with reporters yesterday-

"I was born here," Bhupathi said.
"I grew up here," Paes insisted.
"I've played a lot here too," the incorrigible minnow, Devvarman added.

I watched Paes and Bhupathi play in Bangalore many years ago. Bangalore was less crowded; walking into a stadium to watch a match required no previous planning. The relatively inexpensive tickets were quite enough to provide a birds eye view of the court as the stadium was not that big and not that packed, even though this was an international tournament.

I was amazed by the coordination and implicit understanding that Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi displayed, Paes's dramatic shots and Bhupathi's efficient ones were wonderful to see. They won (of course!) and Paes flung his racquet into the crowd, missing us by a couple of feet and going into the outstretched arms of a man behind. As I turned back to look, I saw another man quickly grabbing the racquet away from the first person and then a tiny squabble beginning, which died down surprisingly soon.

My hackles went up as the crowd began filing out. I rushed forward and admonished the racquet bearer. "Return the racquet! You should be ashamed..." (and he was not that young either, I thought, to be snatching racquets). Heads turned to stare at me and the man who had lost the racquet was actually smiling! The man I was addressing just shrugged his shoulders. "He is my brother," he said, in a matter of fact way and moved on, leaving me quite embarrassed. A racquet racket! Let's hope the brothers actually played tennis as well as they snatched racquets. (I shall never know...)

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