Sunday, September 30, 2012

Who wins the Cliff-hanger sets?!

It’s a known fact that since Safin’s ceremonious Australian Open victory in 2005, the quartet of Roger, Rafa, Nole and Andy have won 30 of the 31 grand slams contested since 2005 (Though Djokovic comes into the picture only in 2008 and Murray only in 2012!). They are considered by many former players, legends like McEnroe included, to be part of the best top-4 in any era of Men’s tennis. One reason for such domination is the way they have been able to handle pressure in situations that were demanding.
Who wins the cliffhangers?!
 The ethereal beauty of the sport that tennis is, has been the fact that in tough contests, the player who wins the important points, more often than not, wins a match. More of this in the last paragraph of this article! A lot of such important points pop-up in what is known as the business end of sets. This piece takes a look at how these 4 players, when playing among themselves, have handled situations after set scores have read 5-5! Against other lower ranked opponents, all 4 have been mightily successful in finishing sets off when push comes to shove at a 5-5 or a 6-6. Here, we’ll see who has been the most dominant of the top-4 in the 7-5, 7-6 cliffhangers played among themselves!

Here’s a matrix showing the number of tie-break sets the 4 have played against one another.

Federer and Nadal have played 38 TB sets (a staggering 20 TB sets between themselves!), almost twice the number of TB sets Murray has played against the other three! Big guys like some thrill, eh? No wonder most of the Federer Nadal sagas turn out to be epics.

When it comes to the 7-5 sets, here’s the matrix showing the number of such sets these players have played among themselves.

Nadal (23) separates himself from Federer (32) here; If Nadal gets to 5-5, it is almost certain that the set is to go to a Tie Breaker. He doesn’t like them 7-5 sets!  Djokovic, meanwhile, has a special liking for 7-5 sets, it seems. He tops this list with 35 sets! Federer-Djokovic matches are bound to have a lot of 7-5 sets; The duo account for 15 of the 54 7-5 sets held within the 4! The Murray-Nadal duels, (they are less in number compared to the Federer-Djokovic encounters) account for only 2 of the 54 7-5 sets in question!

Now to a list of how the 7-6 and 7-5 sets have influenced the outcome of matches!
Unsurprisingly, the numbers are skewed in favour of the winners. Still, there are some interesting insights one could gather from this list. Look at the Federer vs Nadal row! Among the 20 TB sets they have played, 12 have been won by the winner and the loser comes close winning 8 of them! Mentally, the two are rock solid and do not get as bogged down as say, Djokovic, when they face off! The Federer-Djokovic row tells a nice little story that men who bet for a living would be interested in. 23 off 28 such sets have gone to the winner!

Now, a little more deep-diving. Let us see how each of them have performed against one another in terms of a ratio of sets won to sets played.
Tiebreakers first!

The men who have held tennis duopoly for about 7 years have never gone below 50% in any of their tie-break match-ups with the other 3 (Their numbers are all green – over 50% success rate). Djokovic’s record (all in Red) is dubious; That too for someone who is considered to be currently,the best returner in the sport! He doesn’t have even a 50% success in tie-breakers when he plays the others in the 3. So, for the other 3, one goal when they face off Djokovic would be to somehow hold serve and get the set to a tie-break from where they could seek history’s help! On the other hand, for all the criticism the Nadal serve has taken (supposedly the weakest part of his game), he has the best record of them all in Tiebreakers: a game which supposedly favours the big servers! ‘Nerves first, Serves next!’ seems to be the unsaid truth regarding tie-breakers from what we see in the table here.
7-5 sets now!

Here, Federer loses the stranglehold he otherwise held in the other stats so far. He has a below par record against Murray and Nadal and only slightly, edges past Djokovic, who again, is the worst of the lot! In all matches Murray has played against the other 3, never has the match loser won a set 7-5! Again, a stat for the betters and superstitious to watch out for. Rafa dominates the other 3 here as well, with winning %s of 7-5 sets won!

Now for the result!
If one needed to choose just one hero for the cliffhanger tale, just the one who handles pressure best in match-ups of top-4, all stats point to one name – Rafael Nadal! No wonder he has a winning record against the other 3! Another myth that this busts is that Djokovic, with a super serve and a super return and a will to save match points and win contests, is not at his best when it comes to tight sets against his beloved top-runners!
If you still feel the 7-5 7-6 sets are not any more important than other sets in deciding match outcomes, here’s something. Federer had won more points than Nadal in both the Rome final of 2006 and the Australian Open final of 2009. But Rafa pulled off 4 of the 5 ’7-5 7-6′ sets contested in these matches and won both the encounters!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #427

Movie: Platoon (1986)

The Charlie Regiment in Vietnam War has more than the NVA opponents to handle. The film traces the travails of the Nam Soldiers and how a difference and division in opinion can cause havoc even within a regiment supposed to be united to save each others' lives!

What Works?
  • There have been many films on Nam. Every one of them deals with different aspects of the war! In terms of showing the torn inner psyche of warriors, this Oliver Stone venture pips others in style.
  • The casting is fine. Seeing Charlie Sheen, Whitaker and Depp in their youth is a pleasure.
  • The character of Elias is heroic and earns respect. If not for the polar opposite characterisation of Barnes, Elias would never have looked that way. Beauty of creating superb contrasting characters!
  • The massacre at the village is one terrific scene for the decade!
  • The background score and camera work are of grand quality. Dialogues arouse at certain important moments!
Soldier's psyche - Intensely captured!

Two Line Reviews - #426

Movie: Wages of Fear (or) Le salaire de la peur (French & Spanish, 1953)

Plot: Somewhere in South America, a town reeks of unemployment. so much so that a damn risky nitro-transport job offered by an U.S.A. based Oil Company for $2000 appears unimaginably attractive. Four of them make the cut and the film takes us through the tense moments of their drive!

What Works?

  • This film must be among the path-breaking ones to have come in the 50s. The guts of director Henri-Georges Clouzot for daring to make such a narrowly plotted travel tale deserves appreciation.
  • Not just the idea, the execution is also king in this case! It takes some time for the characters to get set, but once they are in, the moments that follow are gripping.
  • The bridge scene, rock-blast scene etc are effortlessly elegant.
  • The actors do a fine job, the hero & the cement-worker duo's being the best; The character of the old-once-was man is nicely carved! Grand sets and believable artworks add class too.
What Doesn't?
If I were to choose one minute to alter,I would pick the last minute of the film.

A pulsating Path-breaker of a movie!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #425

Movie: Barfi!(Hindi, 2012)

Plot: Barfi is a lively, deaf-and-dumb Chaplinesque character who wins the heart of a girl who ends up marrying a man who she was engaged to. After 6 years when she meets him, Barfi is seen to have become the protector of his autistic childhood friend. This is followed by a seris of incidents that separate them. How the pacts got formed, how they separate and do they re-unite? These are told in a timeline jump style interlaced with humour!

What Works?

  • The freshness in treatment hits you! So do the locations! So do the prime characters! The man behind it, Anurag Basu, deserves the applause! Foreign language films have had this treatment; First of sorts for an Indian film!
  • Ranbir Kapoor - How big this guy is turning out to be! He does the tough job of emoting without dialogues and comes up trumps! Priyanka Chopra's performance is realistic and lives up to expectations!
  • The real surprise package was Ileana. Her delivery of expressions, subtleties are a slap to all film-makers from the South who have used hour-glass girls like her just for the dancing portions in films!
  • Pritam's songs are responsible for creating the lovely setup that the camera and the story capture. Darjeeling is captured very well by Ravi Varman's lenses!
What Doesn't?
  • A film of this type didn't need twists and a non-linear narration. That somehow reduces the impact in the climax.
Barfi! is sweet, fresh and the taste lingers for a while!

Two Line Reviews - #424

Movie: Rudy (1993)

Plot: A 'Notredame' fan wants to somehow live his dream of playing for the team he followed all his life. He has neither the physical frame to get into the team nor the brains to get a seat in a the institutions. With relentless determination, he breaks through these barricades in this usurping American football tale.

What Works?
  • This doesn't come across as a normal sports film on a sports team. It is about an individual who can't practically play ball. In that sense, the film offers some fresh air!
  • Sean Astin as 'Rudy' Ruettiger is compact in size terms, not so in acting terms. He does a very fine job by getting into the skin of the character he plays.
  • The angles of the father, the groundsman, uno coach, priest etc. offer scenes and a reason to smile.
  • Music orchestrated by Jerry Goldsmith makes its mark and the aerial shots craned by Oliver Wood are grand.
  • Climax scene offers pulsating experience!
Rudy - A big heart triumphs over anything, small size including!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Two Line Reviews - #423

Movie: Mugamoodi (Thamizh, 2012)

Plot: To win his lady's heart, a jobless jack good at martial arts masks himself up and enacts a night-guard's tale. He gets mixed up with a burglar gang who have been a menace to the city for months. His kung-fu expertise helps him nab one, and in due course lets him help the police force, win his love and save people at the end to make him a masked superhero!

What Works?

  • Mysskin's treatment of a subject is never a matter of 'will he?'. Here, even though he tries a relatively new premise, his style adoring the chinese, japanese traditions is admirable as always.
  • The portions after the  villain and hero get on each others' line are good; Action scenes have been conceived remarkably well!
  • Jiiva, Nasser, Girish(doing a Dark Knight's Michael Caine?) have roles that appeal.
  • The night sequences are proof enough for the good work behind the lens by Sathya;
  • K's Zimmer-style background score stays apt and lets the action on screen be what it should feel like. Naatula namma veetula is the winner among songs!
  • Gabriella Wilkins's costumes haven't gone over the board and that's appreciable.
What Doesn't?
  • The love portions have been dealt with poorly; It takes too much of the film's running time and isn't that serious too.
  • The above line makes Pooja Hegde a liability; Narain's climax act is childish and the screenplay gets spolit towards the end; The burglar group's main mission goes out of line!
'Like' for the Superhero attempt; 'Thumbs down' for the love & climax letdowns!

Two Line Reviews - #422

Movie: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

Plot: Harry and others are set to find the remaining horcruxes to destroy them. In the process, they learn quite a few things about Dumbledore, Snape and his parents among others. When he destroys what is thought to be the final horcrux, he understands a tough truth and a twist ends Voldemort and the HP Saga!

What Works?

  • The film starts with the same momentum at which HP 7 ends and the gradual unwinding of some closely kept secrets makes this a special edition. Yates, as usual, doesn't tamper much with Rowling's work.
  • The final logic explaining the existence of Harry even after Voldemort's spell is solid - convincing for sure.
  • Scenes inside Hogwarts have been decorated artistically and the graphics work,again, is commendable.
  • Background score of Alexandre Desplat is a winner; The music is grand and pleasing.
What Doesn't?
  • Expected a lot more on the presentation of the Snape & Albus stories; Wasn't upto the three brothers depiction.
  • Same could be said of the Dragon scene at the dungeon.
A fitting end to a huge, magnificent series of films!