Even the most optimistic Roger Federer fan would not have anticipated what happened in January 2018, at the Australian Open.

When Federer won Wimbledon in 2012, most fans like me would have come to terms with the fact that the heydays were over and we would have to resign ourselves to sporadic results or even worse, a retirement. With Novak Djokovic, Any Murray, and Stanislas Wawrinka in the mix, on top of Rafael Nadal, the future looked grim.

  • The shot-making and angles from both Federer and Nadal were amazing …
  • Federer’s backhand, the gorgeous single-handed one, was hit through with tremendous pace and you could see Nadal scramble a lot to retrieve them. The “loopy high-bouncing heavy-spin forehand to Federer’s backhand” had been Nadal’s go-to move. Because of the court and Federer’s strategy, the go-to move was not a huge success in this match …
  • The few times Federer ventured to the net, he had a high success rate …
  • Federer’s comment during the post-match press conference: “If there was a draw possible, I would be happy to share the trophy with Rafa” was a nice gesture …
  • Rafael Nadal’s fighter instincts are legendary. To come back from 1-3 down in the 5th set, against Nadal … Anyone who watched the emotional Federer loss (to Nadal) in 2009 Australian Open would have thought: “I have seen this before …” when Nadal broke early in the 5th set 🙂
  • Federer wins a Grand Slam after a gap of 17 slams. Boris Becker had a gap of 19 slams between his Australian Open win in 1991 and his Australian Open win in 1996 …
  • Winners > Unforced Errors & Net win percentage of 73%. Both great numbers against Nadal …
  • One could note the crowd having a blast … When Federer broke back at 2-3 in the 5th set, the crowd went wild
  • To me, Federer is an artist. Hitting machine-like ground-strokes over 5 sets (like Novak Djokovic) is not his strength
  • Now Federer has won at least 5 times at 3 Grand Slams (Wimbledon, US Open, and Australian Open)
  • Side Note: What’s up with Novak Djokovic??? He has truly hit a mental block after winning the 2016 French Open …
  • Grand Slam Finals Statistics


Roger Federer: 18-10 (Win-Loss). 64%. The 10 losses (AUSTRALIAN-1, FRENCH-4, WIMBLEDON-3, US-2)

Rafael Nadal: 14-7 (Win-Loss). 67%. The 7 losses (AUSTRALIAN-3, FRENCH-0, WIMBLEDON-3, US-1)

Novak Djokovic: 12-9 (Win-Loss). 57%. The 9 losses (AUSTRALIAN-0, FRENCH-3, WIMBLEDON-1, US-5)

  • Nadal and Djokovic are finding out 1st hand how difficult it is to achieve the various Grand Slam streaks Federer owns. E.g. Consecutive Grand Slam Finals, Consecutive Grand Slam Semi-Finals Etc.



ATP 2004-15 – The 3 phases of domination …

Though we have 3 great players in the current generation (Andy Murray is very consistent and is always a contender at the major tournaments, but I do not think he is solidly in the Federer/Nadal/Djokovic conversation), there has been a distinct set of domination phases during the 2004-2015 time period, as highlighted below.


Federer Phase (2004-2007, 4 years)

Grand Slams == 11 (68.75%)

ATP 1000 Titles == 13

ATP World Tour Final Titles == 3

Ranking == No:1 for 3 full years (2005-07) and majority of 2004


Rafael Nadal Phase (2008-2010, 3 years)

Grand Slams == 6 (50%)

ATP 1000 Titles = 9

ATP World Tour Final Titles == 0

Ranking == No:1 for 1.5 years (Out of 3 years)


Novak Djokovic Phase (2011-2015, 5 years)

Grand Slams == 9 (45%)

ATP 1000 Titles = 21

ATP World Tour Final Titles == 4

Ranking == No:1 for 3.5 years (Out of 5 years)







Greatest Tennis season over the past 30 years?

Pardon the almost unreadable quality of my table (Did not want to splurge on a paid WordPress account for the Plugins 😉 …

(1) Obviously, more credence is given to performance in the Grand Slams, the 4 tournaments with the biggest coverage, impact, money and pressure

(2) Even though Djokovic has a “3-0” (with respect to Grand Slams Won-Finals) season in 2011, his 2011 season deserves to be in the mix for the simple reason that his record against Nadal (7-0) and Federer (6-1) in 2011 is insane considering the kind of years Nadal (2010) and Federer (2009) had just prior. Djokovic kicked some a** in 2011 🙂




2015 US Open: Some random thoughts …

(1) Federer gave a very good fight to Djokovic, but one always had the feeling that Djokovic would ultimately prevail. Though few would call Djokovic’s game “pleasing on the eye” (Federer is an artist with the racket, by comparison), the dude is the complete package as far as a Tennis pro go. Good serve? CHECK. Good (Actually, GREAT) return? CHECK. Endurance? CHECK. Mental toughness? CHECK. Great ground strokes? CHECK. Good net skills? CHECK. Big game experience? CHECK. Peak physical condition? CHECK. It is a fact that Nadal is/was in Federer’s head. Well, guess who is in Nadal’s head? Djoker! I still remember Nadal returning after a stellar 2010 (3 Grand Slams!) and finding that he got smoked 7-0 by Djokovic in 2011. After claiming his 17th Grand Slam at 2012 Wimbledon, what luck Federer has had to have played 3 Grand Slam Finals subsequently, and all of those against the World No:1.
(2) If 2015 is any indication, it is just a matter of time before Djokovic overtakes Sampras/Nadal (14), I think … Though Nadal and Djokovic are both 29, right now, Nadal looks 39 … 😉 Hope Nadal has a better 2016.
(3) Though Edberg has definitely revitalized Federer’s game (Federer’s 2013 had been a disaster) and has made his game very compact, attacking and all-court, one has to say that Becker has done much better with Djokovic (albeit a 5-year-younger ward) … Until Becker came on board, Djokovic went through a stretch of 9 Grand Slams, where he won just 1 and lost in 5 Finals and 2 SFs and 1 QF. Since then, over 6 Grand Slams, Djokovic has won 4, lost a shocker to Wawrinka in 2015 French Open and lost in SF (to Nishikori) in 2014 US Open. Not bad, eh?
I wonder what 2016 will have in store for Tennis fans?

You are a true sports fan if …

(A) Once you start admiring a person or team for the way they play a particular sport, you go all in … I.e. Support them, as a fan, through thick and thin …

My Idols through the years:

Tennis: Boris Becker …. Patrick Rafter … Roger Federer … “Big 4” (Roger/Rafa/Novak/Andy)

NBA: Michael Jordan, LA Lakers, Kobe Bryant …

Cricket: Mohammed Azharuddin … Yuvraj Singh … Virat Kohli …

NFL: Peyton Manning … Aaron Rodgers …

As you can imagine, I have gone through many a heart-break as a fan 🙂

(B) You wake up at 1.30AM to watch the Pre-Show!

Example: I woke up at 1..30AM IST to watch Pre-Show of NZ-SL game in the 2015 Cricket World Cup

(C) A hard-earned win by your idol sends you over the moon and changes your crappy day into a remarkable one …


(1) LA Lakers beating Sacramento Kings to draw level at 2-2 in the 2002 Western Conference Finals on a Robert Horry 3-pointer

(2) India beating Pakistan in 1996 Cricket World Cup, at Bengaluru …

(3) Novak Djokovic beating Rafael Nadal in a dramatic 5-setter in 2012 Australian Open Final

(D) You can list out every major victory, scores and other titbits …

Example: You want to test me? 😉

Enjoy the 2015 Cricket World Cup folks … May the best team win! Go Dhoni! Go Kohli! Go India! Go Smith! Go Sanga! Go McCullum! Go De Villiers!


What can we learn from Sports?

A lot of folks look at a Sports fan with sympathy, similar to the way one would look at some addict well on the way to oblivion. Is that really fair? Though I would never advocate someone plonking themselves in front of TV for a multi-hour marathon TV-watching experience, following Sports as a fan does bring some benefits to our lives.

(A) “Going all out during a game”

“And accepting the results gracefully, once the game is done”. Rafael Nadal is a prime example. I have never seen him sulk or belittle his opponent after a loss. Some of the losses, like his 2014 Australian Open loss, are never easy and yet, he is gracious as ever when giving credit where credit is due. We can always come across people in our daily lives, who never ever admits their failure and instead blame everyone other than themselves. (Have you ever seen a Driver on Indian Roads admit that he/she is NOT a good driver? :-)). I.e. Textbook “Sore Losers”. I love watching Sportsmen/Sportswomen win and bask in the glory. I am equally a fan of studying how Sportsmen/Sportswomen handle adversity. It is easy to be graceful and magnanimous when one has won. Try doing it when the outcome is not what you wished for or hoped for.

This is one area where I feel Virat Kohli can improve. I am a huge fan of Virat Kohli for his skills and his fighting spirit. His records speak for themselves. A highly energetic cricketer, if ever there was one. But he rarely accepts his getting out gracefully. Mostly it involves discussions and arguments with umpires, some choice words (mostly to himself) Etc. In a recent occasion, he was clearly out caught and yet he sulked all the way back to the pavilion. Basically, he seems to be having the mentality that if he gets out, it has to be an error by someone else, for he is not supposed to get out, ever! 🙂

(B) Tactics

One of the great pleasures a Sports fan has is in doing “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” or critiquing after the end result is well known. I have also developed some advanced skills in this arena.

“If only Federer had played more aggressively …”

“If only Djokovic had hit a down-the-line shot instead of going cross-court …”

“If only McCullum had enforced follow-on …”


As one can note, making decisions when the end result is far away from being known, is an altogether different ballgame.

Which is why, it is highly enjoyable to test your wits while a sports event is unfolding. For E.g. Rather than passively watching Tennis on TV, try “playing” along with your favorite player. Each time the ball comes over, try deciding in your mind what shot you would make.

The tactical decisions Players and Team Captains make offer a lot of lessons for the Corporate World as well.

(C) Inspiration for Fitness

Whenever one watches supremely fit athletes indulge in their sport, one cannot help but be inspired to get off the couch and indulge in some activity. For E.g. After watching a Tennis match involving Novak Djokovic, rarely have I reached out for a Donut right after the match :-). Similarly, how can one NOT be inspired by Rafael Nadal’s “guns”?

(D) Practice and Preparation

A few years back, Roger Federer was asked by Jim Courier (TV Analyst) on his “Off-Season Preparations”. Federer jokingly replied that he is supremely talented and all he does is lie on the couch and let his talent do the hard work. In reality, even a supremely gifted player like Federer spends countless hours on the practice courts and in the gym.

Peyton Manning is another example of what Practice allows a person to do during the game.

As Malcolm Gladwell fantastically articulates in his hugely successful book “Outliers”, it takes countless hours of practice for a person to be an Expert in anything. Rarely does Talent do the work on its own.

(E) Handling Setbacks

Saurav Ganguly made his Cricket debut (ODIs) at a very young age. But due to attitude problems and other similar issues, he soon lost his place in the Indian Cricket Team and had to spent several years in the wilderness. But when he got his next chance, boy, was he ready. A Century on Test Debut, followed by a stellar career as a Batsman and as a Captain was what happened thereafter.

Another example is Stanislas Wawrinka, who after 12 straight losses (never once winning a set!), turned things around and beat Nadal in 2014 Australian Open Finals.

After the huge setback Peyton Manning had in SuperBowl XLVIII, let us see how he handles it in 2014-15 Season.


The biggest upset in Tennis History? Nah, I dont think so …

First of all, I am still “recovering” from the huge disappointment I have (as a fan) with Roger Federer’s monumental loss in the 2nd round of Wimbledon 2013, to Sergiy Stakhovsky, who is a journeyman tennis player (at best).

After 36 consecutive Grand Slam QuarterFinals over 9 years (I repeat, 9 years!), the streak comes to an end.

Some quick thoughts:

– Am amazed at the equanimity with which Federer has handled this devastating loss

– Do you think Stakhovsky has a good story to tell his grandchildren? Who broke what is the most remarkable of all of Federer’s numerous records? “Me, Stakhovsky!”

– The tennis landscape is soo deep nowadays and the Big4 has been so consistent over the past few years that people lose sight of the fact that if a top player is slightly below his standards and the opponent have a brilliant day, anything can happen. Let us not allow the remarkable consistency of the Top4 to mask the basic fact that Tennis, as a true global sport, is ultra-competitive.

I am sure Federer will be wondering “What next?” over the next few days/weeks/months.

I sure hope that he does not linger on and on and keep losing to the guys like this. (I wrote this right after Federer won Wimbledon 2012 and rose to No:1, for what must surely be the last time he will be No:1)

For 9 years, Federer did not lose to folks other than other all-time greats, Grand Slam winners and big-hitters (Tsonga, Berdych, Soderling).

I hope it now not the turn of “Ranking 100-1000” folks to get their chance at the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT)! 🙂

Is this the greatest upset in Tennis? Hardly, IMHO. I can think of the following which should rank higher:

– Pete Sampras, as 4-time defending champion, going down to Richard Krajicek in Wimbledon 1996, while Sampras was at his absolute peak

– Rafael Nadal, as 4-time defending champion, going down to Robin Soderling in French Open 2009, while Nadal was at his absolute peak and having won 3 of the previous 4 Grand Slams

Yes, Federer losing in the 2nd round in a Grand Slam where his record over the past 10 years: 7 Wins, 1 Finals, 2 QF, is remarkable. But not the biggest upset IMHO.