Friday, September 22, 2006

Karaoke Night at ISB

The Karaoke Party at ISB last weekend was simply awesome! The plethora of talent on display was quite surprising. The GSB Prez performing “She’s always a woman” was probably the best one for me, although Arun’s rendition of “Wonderwall” was equally powerful. Lots of sections turned up in huge numbers for their group songs, and sang their hearts (and voices) out. Although melody wasn’t exactly their forte, the enthusiasm and the spirit with which they performed were infectious.

Despite the maddening rains, people managed to land up at the small enclosure where the whole event was moved to, along with spouses and kids, to enliven the party. Even the usually shy people were encouraged to go and try and their luck with the mic. There was one kid who bravely attempted Bon Jovi’s “It’s my life”, while someone even tried “Sweet Child of Mine”.

Speaking of bold attempts, GR and I also threw caution to the wind by performing “Cloud #9”. Although we later found out that our voices were almost unheard, it still was an honest attempt. The last time I performed at a Karaoke party was way back in 2003 in Raleigh, NC. Thanks to Brenda, the friendly waitress at our regular snooker bar, I actually managed to go out there and perform “When you say nothing at all” and even get a huge applause from the southerners. Compared to that, this one was rather lame. Shouting and screaming into the mic were never our strengths, and we should have realized that. LOL.

There were prizes up for grabs too at the weekend party. Although our performance surely didn’t deserve any awards, the spouses (mine included) managed to win the runners-up prize for their rendition of “Pehla Nasha”. As long as the prize is in the family………

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sampas vs Federer

Watching Roger Federer thrash Andy Roddick one more time in the US Open final seemed to be the last nail in the coffin. Despite my living in denial for the past 2 years, the fact simply is that Federer is the best player to have ever played the game. My loyalties with the erstwhile emperor Pete Sampras had blinded me to the obvious greatness of the man known as “Fedex”. But watching him decimate his opponents with such ease, and with such consistency, has finally forced me to accept what the tennis world has been harping about for the past 2 years. Fedex is the most complete player of all times.

As a kid growing up in pre-liberalization India, my first tryst with Tennis was when I watched Boris Becker defeat Kevin Curran to win Wimbledon 1985. Since then, I have been hooked to the game. Becker’s clumsy yet charismatic tennis had won me, and most of the world, over. The booming serves, the diving volleys, and that characteristic jump across the net to signal his victory – all signature Boris Becker moves that still bring back fond memories of those days. The epic rivalry between Becker and Edberg in the late 80’s and early 90’s was mesmerizing stuff, where Becker’s power and Edberg’s grace took turns winning the title at Wimbledon.

While Becker and Edberg were trading titles, the period also saw the emergence of the Nick Bolletierri generation of American tennis players. Led by the psychedelic Andre Agassi, the Americans threatened to take the tennis world by storm. However, the first of the American Teen Brigade to win a Slam was Michael Chang at Paris, 1989. While Michael huffed and puffed his way to victory in 1989, that remained his only Grand Slam title in his entire career. In 1990, an unknown Greek-American teenager announced his arrival on the big stage by winning the US open. Pete Sampras’ legacy started at the age of 19, and lives on forever.

After winning the US open in 1990, Sampras took a backseat to Agassi at Wimbledon 1992, which till date, is the most remembered championships at Wimbledon, due to the improbable Agassi victory. However, the King was not to be denied for much longer. Starting 1993, Sampras moved into a whole new level of Tennis, and began his dominance of the sport, which lasted almost 9 years. When he finally quit the professional circuit after winning the 2002 US Open title, in a picture-perfect final against Agassi, his millions of fans were left both happy and sad at the same time. Happy because of the emphatic fashion in which he signaled his retirement, by winning the Open. Sad because we’d never get to see the Pistol fire again.

Although my early loyalties were with Boris Becker, Sampras’ excellence and his magnificent all court game was irresistible. Soon, I had shifted camps, and had become an ardent Sampras fan. The signature service with which he finished his opponents off earned him the sobriquet “Pistol Pete”. Till date, the Sampras’ serve is universally acknowledged to be the best and most graceful ever.
Ironically, the first time I held a tennis racquet was just after the epic US Open 2002 final, which turned out to be Sampras’ last match. And due to my obsession with the Sampras serve, I actually pulled off a rather good imitation of the Sampras serve.

Ever since Roger Federer came into his own, Sampras’ record 14 Grand Slams has started to appear increasingly breakable. The kind of all-court dominance that Federer has maintained since 2003 makes it very difficult to bet against him breaking the record. With no credible threat to his dominance, Federer has already amassed 9 Grand Slams despite being only 25! Barring any serious injury, it would take a very brave man to bet against the Fedex breaking every record in the book. Although I am a die-hard Pete Sampras fan by heart, Federer has captured my imagination like no other player has.
If there ever was a perfect way to play tennis, Roger Federer has mastered it!

The Verdict: Although it is impossible to compare two players from different generations, Federer seems a more complete player. But in Pete’s defense, with a serve like his, he didn’t need to play those perfect shots.

Oh, and if you really care, Andre Agassi played his last match at the US Open, losing to a little known B.Becker. Ironic considering Agassi had an almost perfect record against the more popular B.Becker in over 25 matches.