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Australian Open 2012: Rafael Nadal overcomes Tomas Berdych to set up semi-final against Roger Federer

By Ankit --There was a revealing moment during the legendary Wimbledon final of 2008 when Pascal Maria, the chair umpire, noticed that both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were making eye contact with him after each point.
It’s like they were saying, ‘We need each other’s support Maria said later. There will be a winner and a loser but let’s deal with everything together to make it special.
That match, which Nadal won 9-7 in the fifth, was more than just “special. It was peerless. And so is the rivalry between these two champions, a rivalry that has now stretched to 26 matches and eight grand slam finals. In the annals of tennis, only Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova come close.
So it feels a little odd, almost unnatural, that Federer and Nadal should now be preparing to meet in the first semi-final in Rod Laver Arena. Here we have two of the most feted individual sportsmen on the planet. The list of their achievements makes world No 1 Novak Djokovic look like a naive newbie. And yet tomorrow’s match will, in theory, be no more than a warm-up act for Sunday’s final.
Nadal takes a different view. We are talking about a player who won 16 grand slams,” he said last night, after negotiating a draining quarter-final against 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych. “I have won 10 and we have played a lot of matches between each other, in very important moments for our careers. All the matches against him are special and will be special even if we are No 20 against No 25.
Earlier, Federer had revealed that he was rooting for Nadal to beat Berdych, because he wanted to settle another score from their rich history. “Obviously I’d like to play Rafa because of our great epic match in the final here a few years ago, he said.
Federer was referring to another dramatic five-set defeat, inflicted at the 2009 Australian Open, which left him weeping so uncontrollably at the presentation ceremony that he found it difficult to accept his runners-up prize.
“God, it’s killing me, Federer said then. Tomorrow will be his chance to do some killing of his own. If Nadal serves up as many short balls as he did in the early stages of last night’s match, he can expect Federer to scatter winners all over the court like confetti.
The Fed Express certainly lived up to his nickname yesterday as he swept past Juan Martin Del Potro — another man he has history with — in just 1hr 59min. It was classic Federer as he controlled the match and stroked the ball into gaps like the ultimate string-pulling midfielder.
Del Potro’s forehand might be recovering something of the potency it had in 2009, the year he sentenced Federer to another grand slam final defeat in New York. But it is hard to see him adding to his major tournament tally unless he starts moving more like a panther than a buffalo. Federer kept wrong-footing him with cunningly placed slices, and Rod Laver Arena seemed to shake to its foundations every time he wheeled around.
Nadal, of course, will be a totally different proposition. Even with the bandage around his right knee, which he has worn since the joint mysteriously locked up on the eve of the tournament, he still showed extraordinary foot speed yesterday as he chased Berdych’s bazooka of a forehand around the court. There was one 29-stroke rally in which he had to make half a dozen desperate retrievals before finally firing a cross-court winner. It was unquestionably the point of the tournament so far.
But how much will yesterday’s battle of wills have taken out of Nadal? It was a stressful match in anybody’s language, especially in the first-set tiebreak. He has rarely shown so much anger as he did when a line-judge failed to spot an overhit backhand from Berdych. After being denied the right to challenge the call on Hawk-Eye, Nadal unleashed a stream of Spanish at the umpire, Carlos Bernardes. For a moment, he almost looked as if he was going to smash his racket into the ground — something that his coach, ‘Uncle’ Toni Nadal, has always expressly forbidden.
Still, Nadal had recovered his composure by the end of the match, which he won 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-3. He went so far as to say that “the fourth set was one of my best on this kind of surface, returning inside the court, [and] making a lot of winners”.
Nadal finished last year in low spirits, especially after an uncharacteristically limp 6-3, 6-0 defeat to Federer at the O₂ Arena in London, but it seems he is slowly beginning to get his mojo working again.
“After two years with troubles and injuries [at the Australian Open], semi-finals is a very good way to start the season,” he said. “Even if I lose [to Federer], I come back home with very positive feeling about how I played.”
It almost sounds as if Nadal will go out feeling he has nothing to lose. Which would make him even more dangerous than normal.


Review: 'Agneepath' is brilliant in its brutality

By Ankit

Film: "Agneepath"; Starring: Rishi Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Om Puri; Written and Directed by Karan Malhotra; Rating: ****

Long before the damsel in the den Katrina Kaif signs her writhe petition 'junta ke naam', the film's imposing villain and by extension the film, have written their destiny. In bold bloodied letters. E-mail didn't exist in the 1990s.

Sanjay Dutt as Kancha lording over a no-man's-land called Mandwa where the only law that exists is lawlessness is so formidable in his vile antics, you fear for the hero, a decent bloke with eyes that tell a million untold stories.

Hrithik Roshan opts for a perfectly-tuned low-pitched performance to offset Sanjay Dutt's larger-than-life diabolism. The combination of the flamboyant and the understated works.
This is Agneepath Retold or Agneepath Deconstructed. Either way, the revenge formula never seemed more rousing in its invocation of Good and Evil in their most elementary avatars.

Debutant writer-director Karan Malhotra has chosen to restructure one of the most complex but unsuccessful Amitabh Bachchan starrer. The plot leaps at you through its sanguinary design, building brick by brick an edifice of low-life and high-drama.
This new-rage "Agneepath" retains the core of Mukul Anand's failed drama. And yes, it retains Harivnansh Rai's "Agneepath" poem, though, alas, we don't get to hear Amitabh Bachchan recite the lines.

Karan Malhotra's script alters many of the original's dramatic moments, adds new characters (most notable among them, Rishi Kapoor's Rauf Lala), and finally fine-tunes and assimilates the plot's subliminal statement on crime and retribution to a pitch where we often hear the screaming protests of social inequality through the protagonist's pain-lashed expressions of angst, disgust and rebellion rather than his words.
Hrithik Roshan opts for a subdued interpretation of his vengeful character where he could've easily been larger-than-life. He lets Sanjay Dutt take charge of the blizzard of the bravura.

Sanjay Dutt is delightfully in form. During the "Chikni chameli" song when he quizzes the newly-arrived Mandwa-resident Vijay on why he's where he is, Sanjay's eyes go from the molten to the melting...His best in years.

But the finest performance comes from Rishi Kapoor. Playing a loathsome flesh trader and drug dealer who takes Vijay under his wings, he delivers a bludgeoning homage to skin-crawling villainy. A glorious departure from his lover-boy image.

The prolonged sequence where Hrithik Roshan takes on Rishi Kapoor is the single-most riveting episode of filmed violence in Indian cinema since Gabbar Singh's mayhem over the Thakur's family in Sholay.

"Agneepath" works so wonderfully within its high-voltage 'masala maad-dhaad' genre because of the actors who instinctively grasp the street-level gut-wrenching grammar of Malhotra's storytelling.

Barring Priyanka Chopra who seems strangely cosmetic in a land of looming credibility, every character shines through the crime-drama maze.

The action sequences by Abbas Ali Mogul convey rawness. Every blow that Hrithik Roshan so manfully receives on his chin makes you flinch. You wait for him to give back as good as he gets.

This is not a film for the faint-hearted. Its basic structure and the leitmotif of the 'tree of death' (where Vijay Chauhan's father was hanged and where his wrongdoer will finally meet his nemesis) draw audiences into a vortex of viciousness and sadism.

This is a dark brooding world; this is a world where the laws of retribution and redemption are re-written according to who rules the underworld. This is "Agneepath" where the poet gets hanged and the pervert gets promoted.

Karan Malhotra revels in the language of commercial Hindi cinema. The characters in Vijay's chawl are all good-hearted. Every character in Kancha's kingdom is a creep or a coward. The battle lines are tightly drawn. The pace is breakneck.

The mob scenes of violence and religion often merge on the streets of Mumbai and in the lawless backwaters of the imaginary Mandwa. The narrative features a Gokul Ashthami matki-breaking sequence at the start and a Ganesh visarjan sequence towards the end, both shot spectacularly on Mumbai streets.

The background music is a suitable banshee of memories and pain. Since Hrithik Roshan has chosen the language of understatement to portray the wronged wounded social outcast Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, it is up to the eloquence-level of the soundtrack to supplement the hero's stunning silences.

Every component of the film falls into place, with a resounding thump. "Agneepath" is brilliant in its brutality. It's a riveting and hectic homage to the spirit of the cinema when revenge reigned supreme. And content was King. This new "Agneepath" takes us back to the era when there was no computer or cellphones. And communication with the audience was immediate and electrifying.

Relive that tingling sensation of watching the hero get his groove back. In gory detail.

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