30 January 2008

The Irrepressible Sreesanth

Our favorite off-kilter Indian cricketer is about to return to action in the upcoming triangular ODI series between India, Australia, and Sri Lanka.

Here is a bit from the great Lawrence Booth that explains the goofball charm of our friend Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, or simply, Sreesanth:

But his pieces de resistance remain his attempts to unsettle members of the opposition with a brand of sledging that combines the wit of Oscar Wilde with the linguistic facility of, well, Oscar Wilde's son.

Here he recalls an altercation with Brian Lara.

"He defended a ball with an exaggerated back-and-across movement and I just stood there and murmured my disapproval. Next ball he was beaten and I said, 'Is this the King Charles Lara? Who is this impostor, moving around
nervously?' I should have kept my mouth shut for the next ball - mind you, it was a length ball - Lara just pulled it over the church beyond the boundary! He is a true legend."

From buffoonery to adulation in a few sentences! Sreesanth at his clownish best!



26 January 2008

Djoker Beats King

Okay, so the headline wasn't exactly original (I've seen many variations on the web), but the shock is palpable nonetheless.

I mean, Roger Federer was not playing his best tennis, we all know that, but all of us (including, I'm sure, himself) were expecting him to win his 13th slam, especially considering the fate of his nemesis Rafael Nadal.

Novak Djokovic has the game - that's never been in doubt - but as evidenced by his unravelling at the end of his match against David Ferrer (the Energizer Bunny of Tennis) his mental and emotional faculties have always been in contention.

That is until his tight, straight-sets win over the Greatest Player Who Ever Lived.

Great, just bloody great.

I like Djokovic, I really do. He has a big game. He is a wonderful shot-maker. He has gained some amount of notoriety thanks to his YouTube videos of tennis impressions. People in the US have somewhat heard of him (a miracle in and of itself).

But the only thing keeping Tennis in the general consciousness here is the unparalleled genius of Federer (and, um, the unparalleled "commercial" genius of Maria Sharapova...but more on that later). If this truly is the end of Federer, then Tennis is finished.

Yes, I said that Tennis is finished.

Without widespread American support, Tennis cannot survive at the highest level, even internationally.

Great, just bloody great.

On top of that Shriekin' Sharapova took out the poor, sweet Ana Ivanovic in straight sets to win the Australian Open (Ivanovic gave a very emotional, heartfelt speech that transcended her broken English - apparently they don't give media training in war-torn Serbia).

It looks like the gutless Tiger Woods is going to run away with the Buick Invitational (Is it any accident that his first tournament of the year is sponsored by one of the companies he endorses and it just happens to fall on an NFL-dark weekend so he gets all the sports headlines? I think not.)

Great, just bloody great.

At this point nothing is going to stop the New England Cheat-riots, Bill "Spygate" Belichick, and Tom "The Boot" Brady from completing their perfect season.

Great, just bloody great.

And there is that voice inside my head telling me that somehow, someway, India is going to lose the deciding Test against Australia.

They may have come back from a soul-shattering defeat to inflict a thrashing on the mighty Aussies (and keep them from setting their own Consecutive Test Victory record) and put up a big first innings in this last match (which included a century from Sachin Tendulkar when it actually mattered - imagine that!) but India, as we all know, is the master of that oft-used term "Flatter to Deceive" (applied to such sports entities like Marat Safin, Peyton Manning, the Phoenix Suns, Amelie Mauresmo, David Beckham, Gabriela Sabatini, Tiki Barber, the 2006 - 2007 USC Football Team, the 2006 French Football Team, the New England Patriots' Super Bowl Competition, Terrell Owens, Jelena Jankovic, Alex Rodriguez, The National League, Andy Roddick, Barry Sanders, etc.)

Great, just bloody great.


ESPN: Patrick McEnroe
ESPN: Bonnie D. Ford
SI: Jon Wertheim
The Times: Neil Harman
The Guardian: Steve Bierley

24 January 2008

And Then...Tsonga!

A funny thing happened on the way to Federer - Nadal.


Why, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of course.

He's the flame-throwing, forehand-smacking, serve-bombing, fearless, rousing, engaging, energetic, fantastic, upstart Frenchman who has mowed through the likes of Andy Murray, Richard Gasquet, Mikhail Youzhny, and finally, the seemingly indestructable Rafael Nadal.

I remember seeing him a few years ago at the US Open and agreeing with the commentators when they said that he had uncommon shot-making ability (I'll say, he had 49 winners against Nadal!) but was a bit heavy and immature.

Boy, did he turn things around fast.

I'm not saying he's going to defeat Fed, but I think it'll be an entertaining match all the way.


ESPN Story
ESPN Video

Into a million little pieces....

Just like my dreams...

Quantum of Solace


That's what they're calling the new James Bond movie?!

Quantum of Solace?!

What the ef, dude....what the ef?!


Yahoo! News Story
Movie-Watching...Made Civilized

Just because you love little, "indie" films like The Savages, doesn't mean that you have to be a, um, savage to watch them.

Yup, in the new Landmark West Los Angeles they have couches with little side-tables in the movie theatres.


Yup, that's how we do out here on the West-saeeeeeed....


The Landmark, West Los Angeles

23 January 2008


A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words.

Here, then, is something to keep those words flowing!

So Close...Yet So Far (Again!)

James Blake apparently put up one helluva fight, but at the end it was another straight-set win for the peerless Roger Federer.

I think people take Fed for granted, but it's not easy, not easy at all, to do what he does, and I don't think most people (especially the mainstream American sports media) realize that he has to play his best to beat the best players in the world time and time again...

And if I hear one more word about that idiot Tiger Woods (his usual brave, outspoken self on the whole Golfweek cover brouhaha) I swear I'm gonna throw up.

Here is a great story of that Federer-Blake match written by the fantastic Christopher Clarey of The New York Times (edited a bit, you can read the whole thing by clicking on the link below the story):

January 24, 2008
Australian Open

Federer Makes Another Statement

MELBOURNE, Australia — Even after winning 12 Grand Slam singles titles, Roger Federer can still catch spectators off guard.

It happened as Federer was facing James Blake of the United States in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open Wednesday night. Federer was down by 1-2 in the second-set tie breaker and had just played a poor defensive point, looking off rhythm and in a mood almost dark enough to match his black socks.

Up he trudged to the service line and then, out of his funk, came nothing less than tennis magic: he half-volleyed a typically huge return from Blake, then easily handled the next parry, a blistering approach shot, and then, to finish off, whipped a forehand passing shot crosscourt for a winner.

“Those are the points you like to see on replay later,” Federer said.

With no time to think or fret, it had all been about instinct, and just like that, Federer was on his way to a higher level, as if someone had pushed the fast forward button on a DVR. He took the next point, another extended delight, with an overhead winner off a high bouncing lob from Blake that landed near Federer’s baseline.

Blake put hand to strings and clapped, not nearly as stunned as the 15,000 fans in Rod Laver Arena. “Nothing he does surprises me,” Blake said after Federer’s 7-5, 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory. “It frustrates me, but nothing surprises me.

“I played two unbelievable points at 2-1. I couldn’t have hit those balls any harder, couldn’t have put him on his back foot anymore. He just flicks his wrist, puts it back to neutral. It’s tough to deal with. Really, the only person I ever played that could do that was Andre. And Andre couldn’t move the way Roger does. Andre didn’t serve the way Roger does.”

Andre would be Andre Agassi, the now-retired American champion who didn’t have much luck against Federer either in the final years of his career. But Blake, a former Harvard student, is, to his continuing chagrin, well placed to analyze Federer’s talents. Wednesday’s defeat was his eighth in eight attempts against tennis’s multi-tooled equivalent of a Swiss army knife.

It was hard to escape Federer’s shadow. Asked if he felt unfortunate or fortunate to play in the age of Federer, Blake mulled it over. “I’m sure the guys in years past are wondering how their games would match up against him,” he said. “So at least I know mine clearly doesn’t match up very well.

“It’s frustrating that some of us maybe feel like we could have one or two or more Grand Slams if Roger wasn’t around.”

Federer has not been at his flowing best here, going five sets with Janko Tipsarevic in the third round and looking edgy at times. Federer plays the No. 3 seed, Novak Djokovic, 20, in the semifinals on Friday and could end with No. 2 Rafael Nadal — who meets the unseeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga — in the final on Sunday.

Neither Djokovic nor Nadal has lost a set here.

“He’s still my favorite to win the tournament,” Blake said of Federer, explaining that he would only believe Federer was not the favorite after someone had beaten him consistently on hardcourts the way Nadal has on European clay.

For now, Federer is back in his 15th straight Grand Slam semifinal, a record by a wide margin. And his victory against Blake also guaranteed that Nadal, even with the trophy in hand, cannot pass him to become No. 1 in the rankings after this tournament.

Djokovic, who has lost five of six matches to Federer, raised eyebrows this week by referring to Federer’s dominance in the past tense. “The players start to feel that he’s beatable,” he said.

Asked for his reaction, Federer chose to play it cool. “Heard it before and don’t read it anymore, because it’s the same thing over and over again,” he said. “You’re coming here to hopefully do well, and then win the tournament if you’re one of the top 10 guys. That’s reality. That’s nothing new. That’s not cocky. That’s confidence.”


NYT Story
Heath Ledger - So Sad

Only 28 and his career was just taking off.

Here is a wonderfully written piece by A.O. Scott in The New York Times. Really makes you wish you could have had more...


NYT Appraisal
It's Good To Be Serbian!

Three of the four semi-finalists at this year's Australian Open are all from the tiny, war-torn country of Serbia.

Not only that, but Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic, and especially the sweet and charming Jelena Jankovic have the game and the engaging personalities that makes it so much fun to watch then play.


Jelena Jankovic
Wikipedia: Novak Djokovic
Wikipedia: Ana Ivanovic

22 January 2008

Breaking News: Heath Ledger Dead

Found dead in his apartment in Manhattan at age 28. No evidence of foul play, but apparently they found some pills nearby.

So very, very sad. His career was really taking off, he was young, he had a daughter. The whole world lay at his feet...


Google News

21 January 2008

Oscar Nomination Predictions

Okay, so let's forget for the moment that there may actually be no Oscars this year; since the nominations are going to be announced on Tuesday, 22 January 2008, here are my predictions (ranked in likelihood of winning).

Mind you, these are not who I think should be nominated, but who will be nominated...

[Hint: the photos give away my preferences from the likely nominees.]

Best Picture

No Country for Old Men

There Will Be Blood
Michael Clayton

Best Director

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Sean Penn, Into the Wild
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild

Best Actress

Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley, Atonement
Ellen Page, Juno

Best Supporting Actor

Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Hal Holbrook, Into The Wild
Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Best Supporting Actress

Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement

Best Original Screenplay

Diablo Cody, Juno
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl
Judd Apatow, Knocked Up [Oh God...]

Best Adapted Screenplay

Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Sean Penn, Into the Wild
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Christopher Hampton, Atonement

19 January 2008


Oh my God!

What an Australian Open!

Janko Tipsarevic

Janko Tipsarevic, the 49th-ranked player in the world, took the Greatest Player Who Ever Lived to the very limit in a thrilling, 4 1/2 hour, five-set match which included a 10 - 8 fifth set!

Roger Federer

Roger Federer had ample opportunties (21 break points) but Tipsarevic refused to die (Fed only converted 5 break points) and consistently took it to Fed. Finally, it was some Sampras-like serving by Fed (39 aces - 14 more than his previous best) to take him over the top (Fed's never been known for his serve the same way that Pete was, but without it he would have lost).

Marat Safin

Prior to that you had more thrilling matches. Marcos Baghdatis over my beloved Marat Safin (so sad...though I do like Baghdatis) in another epic 3 1/2 hour, five set match that featured inspired shot-making from both players. All of this on top of the controversy surrounding the nationalistic statements made by the Cypriot Baghdatis that had drawn the ire of the Turkish community in Australia.

James Blake

You also had the stirring comeback from James Blake against Sebastien Grosjean after losing the first two sets and being down two breaks ( and 1 - 4 in the tiebreak) in the fourth set. Blake would spin this fact endlessly in the post-match interviews, but this was only the second five-set match he had ever won; in fact, he had never won a five-set match until the US Open last year.

Andy Roddick

Of course, you had Andy Roddick going down to the unheralded German Philipp Kohlschreiber in another five-set epic, which not only included two tiebreaks in the third and fourth sets, a 9 - 7 fifth set, fantastic tennis, a career-best 42 aces from Rodick, but also plenty of ranting and raving from the frustrated American (including some Connors-worthy put-downs of the umpire).

Fernando "Gonzo" Gonzalez

There were plenty of other upsets as well. Fernando "Gonzo" Gonzalez, last year's finalist, lost to a 19-year-old Croat with a big serve and uncanny shot-making ability (where have we heard that before?), Marin Cilic.

Amerlie Mauresmo

Amerlie Mauresmo (my favorite on the women's side), Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anna Chakvetadze all went down; and even Venus Williams was given a tough fight by our very own Sania Mirza.

Lleyton "C'Mon!" Hewitt

And then, to bring it all to a head you had the 4 hour 45 minute slugfest between Baghdatis and Lleyton Hewitt which ended at 4:33 am local time. Hewitt looked out of it in the beginning, but hung in there. Then Baghdatis rolled his ankle, but came roaring back. Hewitt served for the match and set in the fourth at 5 - 1 and 5 -3, but Baghdatis rallied to force a tiebreak and push things into a fifth set.

And then it was finally over. At 4:33 am, with Baghdatis gracious in defeat, but in tears in the locker room.

And, oh yeah, there were incidents of crowd misbehaving throughout the first six days.

And the first week is finally over...whew!

17 January 2008

We Can't Get Our Hopes Up...Can We?

India v Australia Test 3: Day 2 Stumps

Okay, okay, okay, I know...I can't get my hopes up, but India not only put up a fighting total in the first inning (330 with Rahul Dravid going a long way toward beginning to rehabilitate his quickly-deteriorating legacy with a fine 93), but actually restricted Australia to 212 with some inspired bowling.

As we stand now at the end of Day 2, India is currently on 52 / 1, with Virender Sehwag on 29. If India is going to have any chance at all, he needs to put up a big score and lay the foundation for a big lead and "eat up some clock" (as they are wont to say in American Football).

Give Australia enough time and it's inevitable they will chase down any score, but put some time pressure on them and perhaps, just perhaps, we might have a chance.

The NFL Playoffs, the Australian Open, the India - Australia Series...what a time to be alive!


Video Highlights from The Age

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