Sunday 29 January 2017

Culmination of a rivalry for the ages

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We are moments away from a match many dreamt of, but never thought it would come to fruition, ever. Roger Federer taking on his greatest rival ever, Rafael Nadal, is the biggest thing in tennis by far. We have had many intriguing rivalries over the years such as Borg and McEnroe back in the 80's, Sampras and Agassi in the 90's, and more recently, Nadal and Djokovic for a decade or so. But somehow, Federer vs Nadal has a very different ring to it, and every ardent tennis fan knows that this is as big as it gets.

This match might be one of the most important grand slam final ever. This after all is about two of the greatest champions ever. What makes it really stand out from their previous clashes is that it comes at a very different stage of either of their careers. While most of their matches have come at the peak of their careers, this one was feels more out of the blue than ever. Neither of them are that young either, both well and truly in their 30's (Nadal is 30, Federer 35!)

We can go on and on about their rivalry, their tally of grand slam titles (Federer - 17, Nadal -14), their lopsided head to head (Nadal - 23, Federer - 11), argue who actually is the greatest of all time, and so on. But the most beautiful thing about this rivalry is that neither player's story is complete without the other's. At the end of it all, they push either to perform at their very best, and my word, we have had some amazing matches between them.

What is more unique about this match is also that as they haven't faced each other for so long, we might actually have a renewed rivalry, which might have no consequences of their previous battles altogether. They will give it their all, that is for certain. The thirst for victories and titles never go away for such superhuman champions somehow.

Talking about the match today, I do not expect it to be the best match of their career, but I am sure it will be an exhibition of tennis of the highest order. The crowd will be involved more than ever before, torn between two of the greatest champions who have ever played this game. I actually do not want to make predictions and mar this historic moment. My heart says (and badly wants!) a Federer win in 4 sets, but I feel Rafael Nadal looks more likely to lift his 15th grand slam title in 4 sets. I just hope that we see a great tennis match, and that we see them contest in many more finals to come


Thursday 26 January 2017

Australian Open 2017 : Which Swiss makes it to the final?

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We are all set to have a very high profile all Swiss semi final, and I am still unsure of how it might pan out. My first reaction when Roger made it past Zverev was that it was a great run, beyond expectations, but it is over; Stan will eat him alive in the semis. So I wasn't going to expect much of the tie, but am just going to enjoy some wonderful tennis. As it all started sinking in though, my views have changed maybe thirty-something times, and now I am not sure what to make of it.

The head to head between these two is more lopsided than it seems from afar. They have faced each other 21 times, and Roger has won 18 times. But more interesting is the fact that all three of Stan's victories have come on clay; which means he has never beaten Roger in any other surface, ever! And 13 of those meetings have been on hard courts. Also to be considered is the fact that Stan is not the player he was pre-2014, where most of his losses against Roger had come. Even if we take the pre-2014 Australian Open matches out of the equation, the results are still pretty baffling. Roger still dominates their matches with a 5-2 head to head. What about grand slam encounters? Well Roger leads that one as well with a 5-1 record, but Stan thrashed Federer in the last encounter in straight sets, en route to his maiden French Open title back in 2015.

If we look at current form, there is not much to choose between the two. They have both played 18 sets, winning 15 of them. They have both looked better with every game they have played. This stat is especially encouraging for Stan, as he gets almost unplayable towards the business ends of tournaments.

I feel it depends a lot on how Roger plays this one more than Stan. Everyone knows Stan has a powerful baseline game. The one thing Federer does very well though is to take away time for a baseliner to unleash in full measure. Federer will take most of his shots inside the baseline, and make sure he doesn't give Stan time to unleash his furious groundstrokes. He will try and come to the net to unsettle Stan's rhythm too. If Roger is able to execute this plan, he will come out of this contest on top for sure. If he becomes defensive, there is no way Stan can be stopped. Serving will also play a huge role today, as one break of serve might be enough to decide the sets.

Here comes the part where I give my prediction and I still don't know what to say. Considering I feel Nadal will come out on top in the other semi final, a Roger vs Rafa final feels too good to be true. As much as I hope it is that case, I have a feeling something will go wrong and we will be denied the dream final. But I have to realistic and Federer seems to have an upper hand in this contest. With vast experience and a perfect game to counter Wawrinka's fearsome groundstrokes, I feel Roger will come out on top of this one in 4 sets, maybe even 3.

PREDICTION : ROGER FEDERER 6-4, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-3

Monday 23 January 2017

Australian Open 2017 : Quarter final predictions

Oh, what a round of 16 we had! It started off in the most dramatic fashion possible when the unheralded Mischa Zverev shocked the tennis world by knocking out the number one player in the world in four sets. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Stan Wawrinka expectedly beat their respective opponents, but not without facing stiff resistance from them. Roger Federer continued to put even the 20-something year olds to shame, as he outlasted Kei Nishikori in 5 gruelling sets. All the four bottom half matches went 4 sets. With young guns like Goffin, Dimitrov and Raonic trying to make their mark this year by going deeper into the draw, there still stands a 14-time grand slam champion in the form of Rafael Nadal. All the 8 matches were tightly contested, with 7 of them going 4 sets or more, and the lone 3 setter (Wawrinka vs Seppi) also being decided in 3 tie-breaks.

After all this drama, we now have the last 8 line-up, and the intensity only increases from here. In four out of the last six years, the finals have always featured the eventual champion on all four cases, Novak Djokovic, and on the other end, Andy Murray. In fact, the last time the quarter finals in Melbourne did not feature either of the two, was way back in 2007, when they both lost in the 4th round. Add to it the fact that they are the world number 1 and 2. So quite obviously, their early departure has left the draw wide open. Nothing is certain in the upcoming matches, yet I will try and predict how the matches might pan out, and who might book their places in the last 4.


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The 'Zverev' who was supposed to make headlines this year was Alexander. He obviously had a good tournament, losing in 5 sets to former champion, Rafael Nadal. But little did anyone expect that his brother, Mischa, would go one better and defeat the world number 1. He has an unconventional game, if compared to the modern way of playing tennis which is more reliant on a strong, defensive, baseline game. He comes to the net very often (more than 100 times in each of his matches against John Isner and Andy Murray), and has a very conservative, low racquet swing. He has a decent serve to back up his net play too. Will all this be enough to get him another upset win, this time against a 4-time champion here? I think not.
After a slow start, Federer found his groove in his easy victory over Berdych. I feared that he might not be able to maintain that high level of play against Nishikori, who would grind him a lot more than Berdych. But Roger, surprisingly (to me), had a great game against Kei, serving well, firing from both wings, volleying with good effect, and more importantly I feel, looking fitter than his 27 year old opponent, even after 4 hours of tennis. Yes, the unconventional style of Zverev might bother him a little bit, but I think Roger is more than just a great tennis player; he is a great tactician too. His forehand might come in handy to pass Zverev on occasions, and his variety in spin off the backhand wing, might be used to good effect to disrupt Zverev's rhythm. With any match though, serving well will a key for both players. I feel, as with Istomin's match against Grigor, Mischa's fairy tale run will be cut short by some Federer magic.



I haven't seen much of Tsonga off late, to be honest. No one can deny that he is as dangerous as they come, and he can defeat even the best in the game. The same can be said about Stan too. But the latter part of a slam is where Stan is at his best. He can blow away anyone at that stage, and he has proved it by winning three slams out of nowhere in the last three years. Important to remember also, that this is where it all started for him back in 2014, when he beat world number 1 and 2 (Rafa in the finals, and Djokovic in the quarters, respectively) en route to his maiden grand slam title. Their head to head is pretty even at 4-3 in favour of Stan, but he has beaten Tsonga the last three times they have met. Also, Wawrinka has been in 10 quarter finals out of the last 13 grand slams he has played, winning 7 of them. Tsonga, on the contrary, has made it to the quarters 4 times out of the last 13, and progressed further just once. This shows that even psychologically, Wawrinka will have an edge, as this is, at least recently, a more familiar territory for him. Tsonga will fight, no doubt, but I see Wawrinka advancing to another grand slam semi final, by beating Tsonga in 4 or 5 roller-coaster sets.

PREDICTION : STAN WAWRINKA 6-7(7), 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3


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I don't want to get too ahead of myself, but I have a feeling, the outcome of this match will determine the eventual finalist from the bottom half of the draw, which is why I think this is a very important match. Even if that isn't the case, this match will be key in assessing the progress of both Nadal and Raonic, one looking to establish himself as a serious grand slam contender, other looking to re-establish himself as one.
This is a really tough one to predict, as I can't really say where each one stands at the moment. They have never met at a grand slam before, but Nadal has a 6-2 lead in their head to head. Having said that, Milos has defeated Nadal in two of their last three meetings, which might give him some much needed confidence in facing one of the best defenders on tour. Raonic needs to be very solid with his serve, especially in big points, as the experienced Nadal will try and play extended rallies whenever he can get a look in on his serve. Nadal's forehand will need to be on point to take advantage of the opportunities that he gets, and I am certain that the opportunities will be less for either of the players. Whoever plays the big points well on this one, will come out as the winner. Raonic has been knocking on the door for a while now, and this is his moment to shine. I like the improvements in his game, and I think he is ready to win this one and enter the big league once and for all. As far as Nadal is concerned, I like his progress as well, and I genuinely feel that Raonic is one of the very few players who can potentially beat him. I just feel that his slight dip in confidence over the years, and a little bit of inconsistency creeping into his game in the last few years, might hurt him in the big points. But I see a 5 setter written all over this one.

PREDICTION : MILOS RAONIC 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5


If head to head is anything to go by, then Dimitrov has a clear edge on Goffin with a 4-0 deficit. But 3 out of those victories had come in the challenger circuits way back in 2010. Yet, Grigor is the favourite going into the match, mainly because he is an in-form player, more aggressive of the two, and hence, more favoured to make it to the business end of grand slams. I agree with all of that, but I feel the outcome maybe very different from what people are expecting. Goffin is a more consistent baseliner, with decent counter attacking skills too. While the aggressive Dimitrov can potentially penetrate his defences, and break it down, he will need to keep a check on his errors. I just feel that the Dimitrov forehand is vulnerable to say the least and can leak a lot of errors if put pressure on. If Goffin is consistent and solid with his defence, he can frustrate Grigor and force him to pull the trigger at inopportune moments. I might be wrong, but I'll make a bold call and say that Goffin makes it to his first ever semis by going past Dimitrov in four tight sets

PREDICTION : DAVID GOFFIN 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(5)

Sunday 22 January 2017

Australian Open 2017 : 4th round predictions

Since Roger Federer decided to take the latter part of 2016 off, I have taken no interest in tennis whatsoever! I now doubt whether I love tennis or is it just Roger Federer. Don't know what I'll do when he retires. But that's a discussion for some other time, for he is back playing some good tennis, even showing flashes of brilliance at times, and there is a lot to look forward to in 2017.

With my rejuvenated interest in the tennis world, also comes my habit of speculating who will make it to the next stage of a slam, and who would falter. With the last 15 matches to go in this year's Australian Open in the men's draw, and the king of Melbourne, Novak Djokovic ousted in the second round, anything can happen in the coming few days. 
The new world number 1, Andy Murray, is the favourite to go all the way, but there are former champions such as Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal still alive in the competition, posing a threat to Murray. Then there are a few dark horses as well, in the form of world number 3, Milos Raonic, and the in-form Grigor Dimitrov, who are potential land mines for the big guys mentioned above, and are serious contenders to the title.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The winner will have to win 4 more matches and the rankings and reputation can hardly be taken for granted, because one bad match for someone, or a Denis Istomin-like match from a much lower ranked player, can send a great player packing. So let me just focus on the round of 16 matches in this post. So here are my picks and predictions for the next two days.


I haven't seen Mischa Zverev play before. En route to the 4th round, he defeated accomplished players like Garcia Lopez and John Isner, which is pretty commendable. From the statistics, he seems to be a player who comes to the net more than most players nowadays, and is probably not the biggest hitter of the tennis ball, yet has a decent balanced game. I might be awfully wrong though. I feel it doesn't matter much, because on the other side of the court, will be the world number 1, Andy Murray, who is in the form of his life. No matter what he throws at Murray, he will come out disappointed.



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This is by far the most mouth watering contest of the 4th round. This could easily have been a semifinal for crying out loud! I am having a tough time trying to imagine what this match might offer. Either Federer might steamroll Kei (not as easily as he did with Berdych though) by conjuring some tactical brilliance like only he can, or a misfiring baseline play might hand down the advantage right back to Nishikori, I can't say for sure. Important to mention here also is that we cannot yet say that Roger is back to his absolute best; one match cannot be a parameter for a statement like that. I can say though that the shorter Federer keeps the rallies, the better, because unlike Berdych, the Japanese is a great mover on court, and he will absorb everything if Federer tries to move him around too much, and will counter attack lethally. Needless to say, Federer will also need to serve at his best, to make sure that he can confidently put pressure on the Nishikori serve. For Nishikori to win, he will have to work on playing extended rallies, serve well, and keep Federer on the baseline as much as he can. Even before the first round, I felt Nishikori would be a much bigger challenge than Berdych, and I still maintain that. Their first meeting at a slam might go either way, but I will make a bold prediction and say that the 35 year young will outclass the 5th seed in 4 rollercoaster sets

PREDICTION : ROGER FEDERER 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3

Andreas Seppi's greatest moment in his career came a couple of years ago at this very tournament, where he shocked Roger Federer in the 3rd round. This win shows that Stan cannot afford to take the Italian veteran lightly. This applies more to Wawrinka among other multiple-slam winners, as he has been upset by lesser known players early on in slams more than once. Taking these factors into consideration, it seems like it might go either way. Still, I feel that Wawrinka will blow Seppi away with his power game. Chances are that he might have one bad set, but I am calling 3 sets on this one.



I don't see an upset on this one either, so I'll just keep it short and simple. I say the brute strength of Tsonga will tame the world number 67 in 3 easy sets



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Coming into the bottom half now, this is easily the second-best match-up of the round of 16. Many might put it as a match as tantalising as the Federer Vs Nishikori match, but I wouldn't give it the same status, mainly due to the hugely lopsided head-to-head. Nadal has conquered Monfils in 12 out of the 14 times they have met, last losing to him last way back in 2009. Having said that, this match might be lit up by some Monfils magic here and there, and even though their recent matches have hardly gone the distance, I expect 4, or maybe even 5 sets in this one. But buoyed by his victory over Zverev in 5 sets, it will be very difficult for Monfils to break Nadal's spirit and claim this one.

PREDICTION : RAFAEL NADAL 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2


I actually feel 2017 might be the year when Raonic takes another step forward, and establishes himself as a serious threat in slams by stringing together consistent deep runs in tournaments, and possibly even winning a slam or two. I might be a bit over-ambitious on this call but I like how he has made improvements in his game brick by brick over the last couple of years. I have seen a gradual improvement in Agut's game too, and let's not forget he has come into this round at the expense of the legendary David Ferrer. He might take a set off, but I think Raonic might be a bit too hot for him to handle as of now.

PREDICTION : MILOS RAONIC 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-7(7), 6-3


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There is nothing much separating these two. Head to head is 4-3 in favour of Goffin, but Thiem has beaten him in 3 of their last 4 encounters. It's one apiece in slams, both going 4 sets. One notable difference is their path to the round of 16. Goffin overcame a 5 setter in the opening round, and since then, hasn't dropped a set. Thiem on the other hand, has come here after three 4-setters. I expect it to be a very close match with 4 tight sets, or maybe 5. I have a feeling Goffin will come out on top in this contest.

PREDICTION : DAVID GOFFIN 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4


Denis Istomin pulled off one of the most shocking upsets of all time, beating the 6 time Australian Open champion, Novak Djokovic, in the second round. Great to see that he followed it up by beating another seeded player, Pablo Carreno Busta (seeded 30), in 5 sets in the next round. But I feel the in-form Grigor Dimitrov will put an end to Istomin's fairy tale run down under. I see it getting over in three sets. Istomin will fight hard for the most part, but will succumb eventually.


Sunday 15 January 2017

A look back at my 2016

Another year passes by, and there is so much to look forward to. Is Virat Kohli ready to captain all formats of the game? Will Roger Federer win an 18th slam this year? Will we witness concrete results of the demonetisation drive, or will the scheme to be a failure as the pandits such as Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal believe? Will the sixth part of the 'The song of ice and fire', The Winds of winter be finally released after a 6 year wait, or will George R.R. Martin make the fans wait another year? Will Justice League and Wonder Woman revive the fortunes of DC, or will LEGO Batman be rated higher in Rotten Tomatoes? Then there are of course so many things to look forward to on the personal front too. Will our goals and resolutions for a glorious 2017 take shape, or we will just give up on them before January comes to a close, just like every other year? 

Before we gear up for an action-packed 2017, I thought of looking back at my year 2016, so I can analyse how last year went by, and how I can do things better this year. So here is a month-wise breakdown of how I spent 2016.


Fresh off my successful 2015 reading challenge of reading 18 books throughout the year, I started the year determined to read at least 14 books throughout 2016, including giants such as the last two parts of the Song of Ice and Fire, The Goldfinch and others. Sadly, I failed the 2016 challenge as I ended the year reading just 5 books, and I could not even complete half of A Feast for Crows. I intend to turn this around in 2017 though.


It was a month of reuniting and socialising, as I spent a decent amount of time with my friends. I think it is an important part of my life as I am always a happier person when I am seeing my friends often.


I took a couple of weeks off and I went home for my brother's marriage. It's such a rarity to see even my parents nowadays. Being with them for 2 whole weeks, and as a bonus, meeting tons of my relatives I haven't seen in years, all celebrating together was a great experience. 

This guy here has nothing to do with the marriage. I just like the photo, so I posted it under March.


My first ever trek was to a place called Bandajje falls. The 4-5 hour trek was one of the most difficult things I had ever done in my life (and I had a slipped disk, or a back injury for those who are not aware of what a slipped disk is, at that time). But it was a great experience for me, as it unlocked a new passion for me. I went for few more treks later last year, which I have mentioned below, and my love for trekking just kept getting more and more.


My parents decided to pay me a visit for a week. We lazed around at home, my mom made awesome food, and it was just the most amazing week ever in Bangalore for me. 


My birthday, and I have no pictures of that. My friends came to my place to celebrate, with a lot balloons that too, and I was really happy. That's one day of the year where you get so much attention, so you can't really hate it can you? My colleagues also got me a cake, which was delicious. Yet I only have a picture of the dessert I had made for my friends.


The entire office got up one weekend and decided to go to Coorg. We did almost nothing, lazed around most of the time, played cards, made some music, played taboo, but it was a lot of fun. 

Coorg is very scenic, and I was successful in capturing a few decent photographs too.

Later that month, I made my way to Nandi hills, which is around 60 kms from Bangalore. I wanted to see the sunrise, but it was very cloudy that morning, so the first time I saw the sun, it was somewhere on top of my head at around 9 AM in the morning. So just settle for a selfie folks!


Made my way to Delhi to meet my girl. We missed her birthday in July, but gifted her a polaroid. Look how happy she is!

I paid a visit to the Humayun's tomb. It was a very hot day, but I like the pictures I took, so I think it was worth the pain.


Early in the month, I got an update from one of our clients. He was advertising the project I was working on, and he sent me this. Anyone interested in buying an apartment in Thane, you can go for this one!

I am not a party animal, actually far from it. Yet later in the month I went for a couple of them with my colleagues. I had a good time surprisingly.


I kicked off the month with my second ever trek. Accompanied by around 10 of my friends, I scaled Kumara Parvatha, arguably one of the most difficult treks in South India. It was an incredible experience. The monsoon/post monsoon season was a perfect time to go for a trek there, as it was lush green all around (although monsoon meant lots of leeches and a slippery path all the way, but it is all worth it!)  


My love affair with treks continued. During November, I went for 2 more treks, first to Tadiyandmol in Coorg. It was another unique experience as I went for the trek with Bangalore mountaineering club, which meant that I had 12-13 strangers for company. But by the end of it all, we had a lot of fun together, and it hardly felt like we had known each other for less than 48 hours.

Later that month, I went for another trek to Kudremukh. It was even more scenic, more difficult (I like difficult treks), and hence, more fulfilling an experience. One more positive out of these treks is that I started wielding my camera a lot more (and a lot better I feel).


Another month and another trek story, this time Top Station in Munnar, Kerela. The trek was longer than Kudremukh, but easier. The beauty of the landscape is beyond words, and I clicked away wildly. Overall an amazing experience, just like every other trek I have been a part of.

After all the adventures throughout the year, I had a quiet 31st December with one of my best friends. Couldn't have asked for a better way to end the year.


I have named my blog 'Blissful existence' for a reason. I always try to focus on the positive side of any situation and be happy and grateful for the way things turn out to be, rather than whine and complain about how it couldn't have been worse. So rather than regretting about the things I couldn't do last year, I would rather be celebrating everything I did right last year, and remain hopeful that whatever I couldn't do right, I will turn things around this year. So what made 2016 a productive year for me? Well here are the most important ones.


I am not saying I am a great photographer, or even a photographer. I am still learning the art, and it is a long way for me to confidently say that I am exceptional at this thing. But I am happy that I used my camera more than ever, and in the process, have definitely gotten better. I hope I get even better at it this year, and it can only be done if I keep trying.

The 'long exposure' shots below are a good example of something 'new' that I learnt this year.


I did 5 treks overall in the year, and I loved each one of them. Treks can be challenging, difficult at times, but at the same time they very exciting and rejuvenating. I hope I do many more treks this year.


Hasn't been the best year for cooking, but I did make a few good dishes. Some good chicken, dal makhani and aloo paneer were the standout ones.

I do not remember too many amazing food items I have gone out and eaten. I should do that a little more this year.


I don't know what really to caption this, because I do not have one particular direction in the world of art. Whenever I feel like, I start drawing, or writing, or paper cutting, or playing an instrument. Again, didn't do a lot last year, but this year is definitely going to be different.

Special mention to my colleague Hitha Kamal for lending me her guitar. I play it quite often, and have definitely gotten much better.


Finally, in terms of office work, I am very positive about the times ahead. In addition to the building coming up in Thane, I have a corporate building for Paragon coming up in Bangalore. Construction will start this year, and I am really looking forward to this one!

That's all about my 2016. I wish all you readers a very happy and productive 2017!