Yesterday once more

ROGER Federer has closed out the first set 6-4 with a surgically precise service game. Rafael Nadal, serving 15-0 in the first game of the second set, swings one into Federer’s body, the ball kicking and swerving away from the right hander.

Federer plays a checked, looping backhand down the middle, a defensive response calculated to buy some time to get back into the point. Nadal sets himself up on the baseline and hammers a piledriver of a forehand back at his rival.

Nadal’s relentless strafing of his weaker side pushes Federer further onto the defensive. He tries to change the angle of play with a blocked backhand cross court. Rafa runs onto the ball, his momentum giving his forehand added venom.

Rafa’s cross-court forehand has been Federer’s bugbear ever since the two first met in Miami in 2004. Thanks to a combination of venomous topspin and high bounce, Federer is forced to play his backhand at about the level of his shoulder or even higher.

This Rafa shot is a replica of all the shots he has tormented Federer with over the last 13 years – loaded with spin and bounce, swerving out wide and jerking Federer off-court as if on a string. Federer’s response, an attempted pass down the line, is weak; Rafa runs across to cut off the angle and volleys it deep into the untenanted desert that is Federer’s forehand side.

Vamos! The Rafa battle-cry echoes around the stands; the answering call of ‘Come onnnnnn Roger’ is equally fervent. And sometimes – possibly a trick of the acoustics, probably wishful thinking, or maybe a very real comment on the nature of the most remarkable rivalry in contemporary sport — it feels like the same people are rooting for both players.

Continue reading

Tip Sheet: Facts don’t justify violence

It’s a ‘liberal’ thing to argue ourselves into a corner. And to not get that in life, there are some absolutes. Saying no to violence — to the use of violence to suppress something a section of people dislikes — is one of those absolutes. See this @nilanjanaroy thread on the attack on Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Bollywood.jpg

PS: The head of the ‘Karni Seva’, the outfit behind the attacks, justifies it on the grounds that Bhansali is distorting history (not to mention gunshots no one heard). The argument is not what history says or does not say. It is not ‘How do you know, have you read the script?’ The argument is a simple ‘so what?’ It is a feature film, not a documentary; that it is fiction is implicit. There is no law against reinterpreting — or even reinventing — history; there is, however, a law against assault. And in this controversy, there is only one side unequivocally in the wrong.

Which brings me to this: In the aftermath of the attack, events followed a template. Media headlines. Talk shows. Outrage on Twitter at this newest manifestation of intolerance, and the predictable whataboutery in response.

What did not happen? This: the law and order machinery in Rajasthan was not questioned; the state government did not feel the heat. Therefore the government is under no compulsion to take action against the thugs. Which in turn licenses them to continue their thuggery with impunity — and also signals to similar thugs elsewhere that as long as they cloak their acts with the fig leaf of ‘justifiable outrage’, they can do as they please with no consequences beyond some passing breeze on social media.