THE THRONE OF PARIS

The annual tennis calendar can be split into 5 pieces revolving around the four Grand Slams. April marks the start of the second phase and it runs until the end of Roland Garros. For a good part of the last decade, this period witnessed ‘routine’ proceedings. A certain Spanish Bull would go haywire, running through anything and everything in its path. But, with the bull subdued temporarily, the French capital has had a chance to look outside off its most decorated champion. The 2016 French Open has witnessed a lot of stories. The one that matters most will be strung together by an unfathomably dominant Serb and an enviably perseverant Brit at the Philippe Chatrier on Sunday evening.

Heading into the summit clash, both these players have walked contrasting paths. Djokovic has been serenely sublime if not his usual brutally dominant self. Nadal’s withdrawal meant that the World No. 1 had a significantly easier route to the finals. He was hardly tested up until Round 4 where Bautista Agut managed to steal the opening set. The Serbian quickly regrouped to see off the Spaniard and moved into the quarters. Berdych and Thiem were hardly an obstacle as Novak strode into his third consecutive Roland Garros final.

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Murray started the tournament looking like he wanted to leave Paris at the earliest. He dug in deep to erase a 2 set deficit against Stepanek in the first round only to see himself fall 2 sets to 1 behind against local lad Bourgue in the very next round. Somehow, his grit and experience covered for his starting troubles as he avoided an early exit with back to back 5 setters. Since then, he has found his range whilst dispatching Karlovic, Isner, Gasquet and Wawrinka in the process. He was particularly impressive in his semifinal bout against defending champion, Stan Wawrinka where he mixed caution and aggression with considerable ease.

Andy Murray celebrates during the day eleven of the French Open 2016 at Roland Garros on June 1, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Nolwenn Le Gouic/Icon Sport)

This will be their 7th meeting in a Grand Slam final with Djokovic enjoying a 4-2 advantage. Nole hasn’t beaten Murray in a Grand Slam final outside Melbourne but is still the favorite to come out shining. Considering the regal drought of weaknesses in Novak’s game, Murray would be well served by exploiting the mental pressure which surrounds his illustrious counterpart.  The weight of completing a Career Slam is growing with each passing year and somehow Djokovic always finds a way to stutter at the final step. Nadal used this to this advantage in the 2014 en route to a 14th Grand Slam. Though he got back at the Spaniard with a quarterfinal drubbing in 2015, he took his foot off the gas in the final which helped Wawrinka blast him out of the contest. Murray should look to be aggressive and hit the returns as deep as possible. The first set will hold the key as it will be close to impossible to beat Novak after losing the first set.

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Andy Murray during the day eleven of the French Open 2016 at Roland Garros on June 1, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Nolwenn Le Gouic/Icon Sport)

Winning the championship will also give Murray a unique edge over Djokovic. If the Brit comes out smiling, he’ll need just the Australian Open to complete a Career Golden Slam (something which only Rafa and Agassi have achieved in the Open Era).For Djokovic, it’s all in the head. Currently, no one can match his skills on the court. If he can find a way to escape the expectations and speculations surrounding him and play out a normal ‘Novak Djokovic’ match, very few would bet against him. Irrespective of which way the fortunes swing, Roland Garros is all set to have a first time champion for the second year running.

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The Marathon Queens of India

 OP Jaisha, Sudha Singh, Lalita Babbar,  Kavita Raut

 

OP Jaisha, Sudha Singh, Lalita Babbar, Kavita RautName: OP Jaisha, Sudha Singh, Lalita Babbar, Kavita Raut
Sports: Marathon (Individual)
Rio Medal Chances: Low

Indian Women Marathoners have done exceptionally well to get 4 berths at the  RIO Oympics. In doing so, they have surpassed their male counterparts.

OP Jaisha is the current national record holder and leads the charge of this strong contingent. Jaisha comes from a small town named Kalpetta in Kerala. She spent her childhood in extreme poverty  owing & surpassed extreme challenges to emerge as India’s top mid to long distance runner.
The Trio-1
Lalita Babbar and Sudha Singh are new generation mid to long distance runners for India and have won several medals in the mid distance races. Sudha is the second fastest marathoner for India after Jaisha. Both Lalita and Sudha are exceptional at 3,000 m Steeple chase and considers that as their primary event and have already qualified for the same.
The Trio-2

Kavita Raut was the 4th India women to qualify for Marathon after willing gold medal in South Asian games. She comes from Sawarpada, a small village near Nashik and has been a prominent athlete in the mid distance events at the national level.

Marathon is a difficult sport and require focused training under top class infrastructure and advice, which most India athletes are deprived of.There is a quite a distance between the top women marathoner and the qualifiers for India making the chances of medal very low. However, these India Marathon Queens are training hard in top spirits and looking for a strong finish at Rio.