Monday, July 8, 2013

Et tu, Wimbledon? Then rise, cricket!

Once upon a time, we used to look forward to the French Open for a baseline slugfest. After the quickfire serve-volley game at Wimbledon, and almost similar fare at the US Open, we would finally get some rallies on the slower AstroTurf of the Australian Open. But it was only the French Open where you would have two guys go on and on from the back of the court with loopy shots. On the largely English-speaking tennis circuit, the French were the odd ones out. Only at Roland Garros could you hear a quarante-zero from the chair umpire when the score was 40-love. And you looked forward to this different accent in tennis.

Now it's the other way round. The French have taken over the world of tennis. Long rallies are what every tournament wants, and the extra TV time and ad revenue that come with it.

The Australian Open was the first to become almost indistinguishable from the French Open, except for the colour of the court. The US Open surface too turned more sluggish by the year. It was only Wimbledon that held out for a while.

But commerce had to have its way in the end. The grass was changed as well as the soil underneath. The balls became heavier. Now they sit up to be hit back, instead of skidding off the surface. It means every drop shot or chip shot is suicidal, and each venture to the net is fraught with peril.

What you get is a baseline slugfest, just like in every other Grand Slam event. And all that a TV commentator can gush over is the number of strokes, and who's who in the royal box.

Murray made history on Sunday by becoming the first Brit to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. But on court he was almost a clone of his Serbian opponent Novak Djokovic. This is now one big homogenous bunch of players and tournaments.

Our only hope is that cricket doesn't go the same way. That we will have spinners doing their stuff in India and seamers in England. That we can have our T20 and enjoy Test cricket too.

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