Friday, September 28, 2007

The woman who wore bangles to court

So here I am going about minding my own business, checking mails, thrashing CD's.. when I literally choke on my wafers. (Yes, I have wafers for dinner). I had just seen the person I detested half of my adolescent life.

It was a moment of surreal nostalgia dipped in a single serving cup of retraction.

Long before the time when there were lifeguards in red bathing suits educating the viewers to the benefits of running along the beach on Star TV, we had tennis stars with headbands teaching us to stretch our sternocleido mastoids (ahem.. neck muscles, I was talking to a med student earlier today) on Doordarshan.

There were two reasons people watched tennis in th
ose days (of Maltova and Dyanora TV ads fame); one.. in sheer amazement of watching something so yellowishly-green (later named florescent green by the yuppies) bounce around in varying trajectories while two people determinedly try to cease its motion, and two.. Steffi Graf.

Truth be told, Ms. Graf was the greatest tennis player ever to walk the tennis courts in a skirt. Long before the Henin backhand, there was the famed Graf forehand. The Asian markets had lapped up the German and a billion walls were dedicated to Sportstar centerspreads featuring the champion. Newspapers carried page long eulogies.. blah blah.

But I belonged to other half of the generation who had enrolled their faithful following in the school of double handed powerplay and loud grueling grunts. The woman who could not be beaten, was being challenged by a teenage prodigy (the original before the Barbie's walked in), quite successfully at that. Then one fateful day in '93, the competition was torn to shreds.

No one in their right mind would, however ever blame Graf for the unfortunate incident. But, it nevertheless robbed us of the greatest tennis player ever to walk the tennis courts in a skirt.

I hated Steffi Graf for the remainder of her career. (Remember the Austrian Grand Prix in 2002, when Barrichello let Schumi through in the final lap? Ah, similar emotion.. different context).

So, anyway.. here I was choking on my dinner, as I see Mrs.Graf endorsing pasta (my brand, at that) on television. I have nothing people against endorsing pasta.. in fact, I love pasta.. we could start a new religion, Pastafarians. But not her!!

What next, I 'd see McGrath out baring his teeth for Haldiram's Rasogollas?



Anyway, let's examine the possible pastafarians in tennis.. get any of the following to endorse any flour food and you ve got this patron for life:

5. Flavia Pennetta: Pennetta is primarily a participant in many a duel with Henin Hardenne including the one when Italy won the 2006 Fed Cup, (inspite of her losing to Justine). Much attention was also begotten from the recent Sunfest Open in India.

4. Maria Kirilenko: Let's face it, one cannot look away from a blonde Russian with a tennis racquet. Another beneficiary of the Indian attention at the Kolkota open early this month. With Hantachova also present, Ana Ivanovic was the only one who missed the party. Pity!!

3. Silvia Farina Elia: During the usual rain delays at Wimbledon, the broadcasters often used to play the recorded matches on Court 3, 4 or some random low seeded encounters. Thank God for that, else one would never have got to see the Italian.

2. Martina Hingis: In the days when people looked for a face for women's tennis with a beacon and a bull horn, there was this magnificent young player who foreshadowed a career of greatness. And then imploded. Horribly tempted to say a Federer gone bad, but then that would be a good thing.

And the crowning glory goes to..

1. Gabriela Sabatini: I loved her. Still do. From those Hawaiin headbands and florescent pink racquet grips.. to the under the skirt returns, the Argentine was/is the foxiest chica of them all. As nominal as it may sound, but objectification is an infamy that the game has never spared the male (or female) audience from.


Leena said...

I vaguely remember watching that fateful match.. awakened by my dad's screams(yes, he was a FAN!).
Presently, I am partial to Hewitt ;)
hehe..Was about to ask why the link to pro-Tennis missing on your site..amply justified! I do miss good old days of Sampras though..

Sharad Ragas said...

No, I don't think we (in India) saw that match coz it was not telecast on television.. you musta seen the news.

And what happened to Hewitt??!! I supported the Aussie brigade too, Phillipoussis, The Woodies, Rafter et al.. but was never fond of Sampras.. his slam-dunk smashes notwithstanding.. I quite enjoyed the Agassi returns to the Pistol serves in fact.

Partha said...

"Horribly tempted to say a Federer gone bad, but then that would be a good thing."

I urge you to take back your statement. You know where Federer is from don't you? You owe the country giving you a PhD an apology dude!

Sharad Ragas said...

Hehe.. you know where Hingis is from, don't you?

Just imagine the world of tennis with ANOTHER Federer in the women's league as well.. horrors!!

Half the world already stopped following men's tennis coz they get confused whether it is live or a re-run from three years back.. god forbid, that happens to the women's version (unless of course it reads Sabatini v. Ivanovic)!

Leena said...

hmm..must ve been the news then.. and yes, a little more excitement in the men's tennis wouldn't hurt a bit..

ADR said...

Join the club...

I wan one of those who (mis)directed my anger at Graff after that incident...
To me it had then appeared nothing short of back-stabbing...
Though realization and sense dawned later.. somehow every Graf's victory since then seemed incomplete..
(talk about a life long bias) ;)