Devang Desai

Recent Posts

Tennis is back after a brief hiatus and we’re a little anxious.

Let me clarify, I’m a little anxious.

This year’s holiday season saw your correspondent consume far too much alcohol. To make matters worse was the rampant cigarette abuse. As a smoker for sometime I knew about the highs and lows. One smoke one day can be followed by the decimation of a pack the next. This wasn’t that. My mouth was the equivalent of a landfill found near a McDonald’s rendering plant.

I decided to quit. I had to.

Seven days later I’m still going strong, and aside from lashing out at 2-3 people a day for no reason I’m doing well.

My relationship with the Australian Open goes back a long way, with most of my memories consisting of smoking a cigarette at 4 am while watching a quarterfinal.

I won’t have my vice this year, but the excitement is still there. The most wide open major of the year falls in the month of January, where rust is constant and upsets remain bountiful. Read the rest of this entry »

SachHe was an impatient bully that grew into the living embodiment of calm, cool and collected on the pitch. For a country that achieved organized chaos on a good day Sachin Tendulkar was the rock. A man that would tower well above his diminutive 5’5 frame and ascend into the glitterati of Indian society. Though he lived an impossibly lavish lifestyle compared to the millions of Indians that struggled to get through a single day, Sachin Tendulkar made it easier.

He made it seem like anything was possible. No matter what the limitations, be it financial or physical, it was possible.

After 200 test matches, 463 One Day Internationals and countless other first class and league appearances the end is here. The Little Master is calling it a day.

It’s hard to fathom how much a single person can mean to a country.

India has no unifier in politics, film or religion. The South has their own movie industry. Punjab does its own thing. Mumbai feels like a different world compared to Delhi. Kolkata is a place those in Gujarat probably won’t visit. Are you Hindu? Great, what caste?

What did the teenager living hand to mouth in Bihar have in common with the well educated businessman in Bangalore?

Sachin Tendulkar’s debut in 1989 came during a defining decade for India. Religious rhetoric and class tension exacerbated by legislation aimed at curbing prejudice conspired to push India to its breaking point. “It was in this atmosphere of hate, suspicion, fear and violence that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first hundreds in international cricket,” said historian Ramachandra Guha.

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Liptons 1991 Pic : Action Images  Jimmy Connors - USA
Hate is a strong word but it’s apt in this case. The tennis establishment hated Jimmy Connors. They hated his boorish on-court attitude. They hated how he treated his fellow players.

Connors didn’t come from the traditional tennis background. While the sport was dominated by country club folks with a lot of money and monocles by the box load, Connors was the outlier. A kid from East St.Louis that was coached by his demanding, task-master of a mom, Connors not only made it when he wasn’t supposed to, but excelled.

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Red Bull Formula One driver Vettel celebrates atop his car after winning the Indian F1 Grand Prix at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida

Whilst there’s a lot of people hanging their balls in the pool very early on Fridays, we’re still here working very hard and pushing very hard.”

- Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel doesn’t care how boring it looks. He doesn’t care that consistent domination isn’t exciting. All Sebastian Vettel does is win races. He’s the best driver in the world.

So why does everybody hate him so much?

Now using the word ‘everybody’ is a bit of a straw man. Vettel’s fellow racers have defended him from disgruntled fans. Singapore, Malaysia, wherever the circuit is on a given week, Vettel has been subjected to boos atop the podium.

On Sunday, the German captured the Formula One driver’s championship. It’s fitting that the race for the number one spot ended in India, a course that may never be used again by Bernie Eccelstone’s posse due to a myriad of political problems, including accusations of tax evasion and the bureaucratic nightmare that is clearing customs.

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Canada's Pospisil reacts after losing to Serbia's Tipsarevic after their Davis Cup semi-final tennis match in Belgrade
The last thing I want to do is make this a dear diary post, but it matters in this context. ‘Matters’ is being used loosely.

My love for tennis was the biggest thing I had in common with my dad growing up. We used to play a lot until his knees no longer allowed it. We lived and died on every point Pete Sampras won or lost. It was the same with Roger Federer. When I lived away from home our calls would focus on what happened in Rotterdam or Gstaad. Wherever the tour set up shop for the week.

My dad is no longer the person he once was. Age, issues both external and internal have conspired to make him unrecognizable. My family has battled through, but in the end we face the inevitable. We’re just riding out the last few years. Writing that one year ago would’ve been a lot more difficult, but here we are.

Canada almost made the Davis Cup final. They almost did the impossible, beating Serbia, on clay, in Serbia. A bunch of Canadians with great cutouts made their presence felt in Belgrade. Milos Raonic gutted out an intense five set win over Janko Tipsarevic on Friday. Milos Raonic gutted out a five set win on clay. That will never sound normal to me.

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Britain's Murray kisses trophy after defeating Serbia's Djokovic in the men's singles final match at the US Open  tennis tournament in New York

The moral degradation of society continues unabated. This isn’t about barbaric laws, athletes committing crimes or authority figures abusing their power.

Professional tennis has come to symbolize everything that is wrong with us.

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The greatest lap ever raced

McEnroe-Borg, Prost-Senna, Ali-Frazier, Rossi-Lorenzo…

Valentino Rossi winning a race was not news. It was expected. And yet, the Italian legend found new ways to amaze each time on the track.

His 99th win would be remembered for an ending that can only be described as remarkable. The 2009 Catalan motorcycle Grand Prix saw Rossi fend off his closest rival and teammate, Jorge Lorenzo for the victory.

Sport is at its best when the legends they create compete against one another. You don’t have to be a racing fan to appreciate how special this was.