Sports fans have an interesting itinerary to look forward to today. First, there is the semi-finals at the Rome Masters between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and between Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. Then there is the vital Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea at Munich while for the Indian crowd, there is the satisfaction of watching the Indian Premier League.
While not focusing on the IPL much – a lot has been said and heard, interests have gone up and down, newer controversies have sprung like weeds – the other two tournaments have a lot going, not just for the players but also for their fans across the globe.
After the countless debates and arguments surrounding the players’ performances on the blue dirt at Madrid, the Rome Masters seems to be a sedate affair. Murray’s loss to Gasquet has of course been talked about, but these pale in comparison to the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ of Rafa’s loss to Verdasco. The pick of the lot however seems to be Federer, who has outshone his peers in the first half of the 2012 season and has already won two Masters’ title this year. In his final against Berdych at the Madrid Open, the Swiss managed to win even though his consistency slipped many-a-times during the match. Djokovic would be hoping to capitalise on these slip-ups and halt Federer’s excellent clay-form, while also adding to his titles’ tally.
In contrast, Nadal, who recently won his seventh Barcelona title and eighth Monte Carlo title just three weeks ago, has not had much chance of rejoicing on court. His third round loss to compatriot Verdasco, especially after he had been serving for the match twice, made his performance look like an anomaly in an otherwise exemplary statistical record. Considering that his next opponent is a fellow Spaniard, someone against whom he has won 14 of their 18 encounters – the last one being just three weeks ago – would definitely bring some optimism to cheer and egg him on. But David Ferrer would be equally resilient and upbeat, knowing that in the final at Barcelona he was serving for the set; not just in the first but also in the second. In the windy conditions at Rome, neither of the players would be ready to throw their chances, which makes the match altogether more interesting.
On the other hand, the Champions League final is all about emotions and love for the club, its players and manager and for the sport itself. Watching two massive clubs bidding to pip each other as the king of European club football is not a matter to be taken lightly, especially considering that both have a lot riding on them.
Of the two clubs, it is perhaps Chelsea which has seen a more tumultuous season. After an impromptu sacking of yet another manager following a series of dismal losses and losing its place as one of the top teams in the Premier League, Chelsea’s only option of being a part of the elite Champions League clubs is to win the Champions League title.
And while Bayern does not have qualification problems, they play in front of their home crowd today. The club enjoys fans from all over the world, but playing in front of the home crowd is an altogether different task. It becomes a matter of honour and pride, where fans come to equate losing with infliction of shame and embarrassment. Losing before the home fans, thus, is never an option. Not only that, this would be their only chance to win a major trophy this season.
Raised hopes becomes raised fists, yelling encouragements turn into boos and favourites turn into knaves. Fans might never let go of their favourites, but the momentary lapse between emotions and rationality causes them to lose some of the much needed patience. Yet, that is where the magic of sport lies. Not in winning, not in conquering, but in providing entertainment.