Rooting for the underdogs – Deja Vu


Four GOATs, three days, two titles, one glorious sport

It feels like the summer of 2014. The same anticipation. The same hopes. The same fears. And the same feeling of gratitude. What a wonderful era of tennis.

Today, three of the greatest champions of men’s tennis take centre stage.

As in 2014, the fan in me will wish Roger Federer to win. He’s playing as beautifully as we’ve come to expect of him. But it seems likely that this may be his last match on the grass courts of Wimbledon. That it comes against the great Rafael Nadal, who, eleven years ago beat him in a match widely considered an ‘epic’, and who, less than a month ago, swatted him aside like a fly on the clay of Roland Garros, makes this a nerve-wracking match.

As in 2014, I know deep within that he may not make it further in the tournament, and yet, I will hope, and let myself be heartbroken. I’d rather watch him lose to another great tennis player, than to close the screens and miss a great match.

It’s been a privilege to watch him play, and I am proud to have seen most of his 100 wins on the screen, live.

Federer Vs Nadal episode 40 awaits. Would you rather watch the replay or let the drama unfold before your eyes in real time?

In case you are wondering, here’s what I wrote in the summer of 2014: The Last Hurrah?

Also, in the unlikely event that he does get through, the likely finalist Novak Djokovic will pose a much, much stiffer competition.


Tomorrow, Serena Williams will be playing to own yet another page in the history books. Her achievements in a society and sport that is steeped in patriarchy — am I not guilty of it as well, by writing about her after the others? — are awe-inspiring.

Perhaps it is the one-sided nature of the matches that disappoint fans of the sport, and do not evoke the same passion as the other side of the sport — I recall looking forward to her matches against Justin Henin, and lately, Angelique Kerber with similar anticipation.

I have admired Simona Halep’s game for a while, and hope she will give Serena a run for the money (and glory) tomorrow. Had it been any other player, I would have said that it may be her last shot at number 24, but with the US open left this year, she may well make it 25.

These three days, I’m rooting for the underdogs. In the end, two players will add one title to their kitty. The biggest winner, though, will be the sport of tennis, and it’s crazy fans.

What my ego taught me


Picture any coming-of-age movie with bratty teenagers making life miserable for their teacher. That was math class in my school. 

My math teacher in senior high school was a brilliant teacher. Gentle, patient, knowledgeable, and effortlessly simplified complex concepts for those of us who were terrible in mathematics. His only flaw, was that he was a Tamilian, with a dark complexion, and a very thick accent. For a majority of my classmates, he was great fodder for bullying. They openly mocked his accent, and laughed in class. There weren’t any repercussions on their education — they had tuitions after school to make up for that.

Being a fellow Tamilian, I could understand his frustration. And that motivated me to be that one person in class that he could call a student. The other teachers were treated with more respect (or perhaps, fear), but student disinterest in studies, was blatantly clear.

In college, the atmosphere was completely opposite. Unlike school, the students had their independence. And the teachers — highly accomplished academics — were indifferent to them. Students didn’t dare disturb classes. But if they were disinterested, they’d just leave. Here too, private tuitions were the safety net.

In both my school and college, I stubbornly refused to take these supplementary classes. Some of the reasons included: my firm belief that extra tuitions were for ‘dumbos’ who couldn’t study on their own; my stubbornness in sticking to that judgement even as the ‘intelligent’ ones folded in; and my unwillingness in spending exorbitant amounts in fees when the same (sometimes better) education was already being paid for (that too at a subsidised rate).

It was these beliefs, that pushed me to ask questions in class, to seek clarifications on things I struggled to grasp. At first, I felt stupid. But my egotistical self that refused outside help, gave me no choice. Between feeling publicly stupid, and privately admitting I needed help, apparently, I preferred the former.

And so I asked questions. Even as I felt I was being stupid.


It was after one Accounts class in school. One of my classmates came up to me to seek clarification on a topic that had been introduced that day. I had asked the same question in class, just moments earlier.

It was then, that I realised, that by asking questions, I wasn’t being stupid. I was asking the questions everyone wanted to ask, but for some reason didn’t.


Ego, stubbornness, being judgemental, aren’t traits I, or anyone, would be proud of. By no means am I advocating it. These very traits have hurt me very badly. In the years since, I have tried to let go of my ego — it’s a work-in-progress, and I think I have made a fair amount of progress.

I have learnt that there is no shame in asking for help. It is wrong to label people as ‘dumb’. And it is naive (even, dangerous) to judge people based on my unfounded notions.

But for compelling me learn to teach myself, and brazenly ask questions in uncomfortable environments — abilities that have helped me immensely in my work as a user experience designer — I am thankful to that adolescent, egotistical, judgemental self.

Veterans and Diversity this Wimbledon Season


Scrolling though the draws in this year’s Wimbledon, I couldn’t help notice the stark difference between the ladies and gentlemen’s section of the draws. While there was diversity and an open playing field on one side, the other had very predictable favourites (FYI – mine are the Swiss ones). While there is a significant amount of diversity at one end, the other lacks any succession plan.

With so many inspirational players in the gentlemen’s draw belonging to one generation, I wonder how long this can be sustained. When they all retire en mass, I often doubt if I would take an interest in tennis.

The ladies, though, give me much hope. The story of Wimbledon so far is definitely about a certain fifteen year old, Cori Gauff who played her idol, Venus Williams on Court No.1 on her very first Grand Slam. From her shot making, to how she handled the big stage, and her humility thereafter — thanking Venus after the match — is awe-inspiring.

I hope she goes on to achieve many more wins (she plays later today) and retains her focus, grace and composure.


Earlier today, I learnt about the number of moms (Victoria Azarenka, Serena Williams, Evgeniya Rodina, Maria Martínez Sánchez & Mandy Minella) playing on the circuit. It amazes me how these players continue to compete at the highest level, digging up reserves, beating not just physical strains but also fighting a patriarchal system. There are far more fathers on the tour, as compared to mothers, who are forced to quit due to lack of child-care facilities at most courts around the world (barring the four grand slams).

Mother’s Day may have gone by several weeks ago, but these heroes do not need a specific day to celebrate them.

Thank you, ladies, for inspiring us with your grit and determination.

Related read: some other posts I’ve written about tennis.