Musings by Shekhar Nambiar
The curtain rung down on Australian Open on Sunday with a record-breaking crowd in attendance throughout the tournament and in the final match.
It was tennis at its best. A match of grit and determination versus experience, expertise and stamina. The latter qualities helped the Serb clinch the title.
Novak Djokovic beat Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas to lift his tenth Australian Open title. And what a win it was! A tough match it was and by no means a cake-walk for Djokovic.
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From not being allowed to play in Oz land in 2022, it was a do-or-die-match for Djokovic and one in which he had to control his emotions. After the win, he jumped on to the stands to be with his family – mother and brother – and others. Understandably, he broke down, with a cry of joy, bringing many a tear to eyes.
Grand Slams missed
Djokovic was deported from Australia last year for not being vaccinated against Covid-19 making him miss the Australian Open, with the title eventually going to Spaniard Rafael Nadal.
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Djokovic subsequently missed playing at Flushing Meadows for his refusal at being vaccinated. Unless US visa rules on vaccination of foreigners are amended, Djokovic might still not make it to the US Open this year. But, then, it’s still a few months away before Flushing Meadows opens its gates for the Grand Slam.
Coming back to Melbourne, what took the cake after this year’s win was Djokovic’s praise for his Greek opponent and the message that both Greece and Serbia, small nations as they are, have little by way of tennis heroes to look up to. Djokovic noted that his win and the duo making it to the Grand Slam finals proves that anyone, no matter where they are from, can make it to the top if they have the determination, and work for it.
Djokovic was his true self as he gave a short speech at the trophy presentation. He was humility personified, optimistic, encouraging and hopeful of tennis’s future.
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Australian tennis legend Rod Laver, after whom the Laver Arena in Melbourne takes the name, was present at the finals as was another champion, Ken Rosewall. Their presence added a tinge of nostalgia and history.
Rosewall presenting the trophies was indeed more appropriate than anyone else giving those away to the winner and runner up.
An event of significance on the day was the Beating Retreat ceremony on a rainy day at Vijay Chowk on the tip of Kartavya Path.
Having been among the spectators at Beating Retreat ceremonies for close to five decades, of note were some marked changes in the music played and a few additions to physical movements, including in the drill as part of the drum call.
An addition was the drums being illuminated creating a magical silhouette in the fading light.
Other introductions were evident but they seemed quite appropriate and relevant to the occasion. The inclusion of Indian classical music in the ensemble was done intelligently and creatively.
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As always, the massed band and their tunes were brilliant. Since 2022, the hymn Abide with Me, played at the Beating Retreat ceremony from the fifties, has been dropped. Abide with Me had mesmerised audiences at Vijay Chowk with its lilting music and bells from atop the South and North Block towers of the Central Secretariat.
QadamQadamBadhayeJa brought back vivid memories of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army. The INA song was banned by the British as being seditious and subsequently revoked in August 1947. It was really refreshing to hear the song being played boldly at the Retreat.
Nothing could have been a more fitting finale than the magnificent hi-tech illumination of the nearby government buildings. The Central Secretariat blocks, Parliament House and the Rashtrapati Bhawan looked resplendent, illuminated as they were in the national tricolour.
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The rain played wonders as the asphalt glistened in the dying hours of light. As the massed band marched back smartly up Raisina Hill and its music faded into the darkness came the time for the national flag to be lowered – marking the Retreat – and the President’s departure after the National Anthem played.
The proposed mega display by some 3,500 drones to showcase the country’s technological prowess and youth power got cancelled with the rain playing spoil sport.
With the Republic Day festivities coming to an end, the nation eagerly awaits the Union Budget keeping everyone guessing on what’s coming.
Just after Djokovic’s spectacular win, India bundled out New Zealand for 99 for 8 in the second 20-20 in Lucknow.
Those who were expecting it to be an easy win for India spent anxious moments as the hosts inched their way forward laboriously losing four wickets, at least two of them in the most foolish of circumstances. Luckily, a boundary by Suryakumar Yadav saved the day, with just a ball to spare. Now they go to meet the Kiwis 1-1 in the decider at Ahmedabad.
A close shave it was!
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