international tennis

Back at No 1 and still losing: What’s wrong with Angelique Kerber’s game?

The German has had a couple of semi-final and quarter-final finishes this year, but her results haven’t justified her standing in the ranking enough.

That Angelique Kerber bowed out of contention in the second round of the Rome Open – a Premier 5 tournament, no less – was quite demoralising.

Most particularly, it was a severely shoddy return back to the numero uno spot in the women’s ranking, after having jousted with a rival, who has not only been out of the season for close to four months now following her pregnancy, but who essentially wouldn’t be resuming her career until 2018, after the birth of her child.

Not her surface?

“I’m not feeling so well on this surface. I think that my movement is not the best, especially on clay. I think my legs are always important for my game, but I [am] really not feeling so good on the clay court,” said Kerber, after her defeat to the Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit on Wednesday. “I mean, everybody knows I’m not a clay-court specialist.”

She also went on to add, “I will try to [go] back home and [think], ‘What can I do to be back in Paris?’ I mean that is the next big goal.”

The German may not have intended to distinguish her words as two separate entities when acknowledging and analysing her upset. Nevertheless, the interpretations that have been drawn are definitely two-fold, with her opening statements hitting harder than her latter rationale.

On the face of it, there’s nothing untoward about Kerber’s assessment that clay doesn’t bring out the best in her. For, even by her usual standards of volatility, it’s on clay that the 29-year-old’s performances are more prone to misses than hits. Back in 2016, despite winning her first Major at the Australian Open, Kerber failed to make any impact at Roland Garros, losing infamously in the first round itself. This year too, the three preparatory tourneys she has had played on clay as a lead-up to the French Open – including the Rome Open – have borne witness to this aberration.

Starting her 2017 clay season in Stuttgart, as the defending champion, Kerber lost in the opening round to Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets. She followed up on that result with an eyebrow-raising withdrawal in the third round, in Madrid, when down 6-3, 5-0 against Eugenie Bouchard, right before the tennis circuit moved onwards to the Italian capital city.

However, talking about Kerber’s poor results on clay are still, at best, arbitrary. Because, they don’t present her credentials on the surface in their entirety, just as they come across as platitudes to be passed along, when matches don’t finish in her favour. Additionally, they also counteract and compromise her stature as the world No 1, pegging her to be vulnerable when she is expected to be dominant across all playing surfaces.

Vis-à-vis the 2017 season as a standalone, the superficiality of her not being able to live up to the billing of the world’s best player – on clay – is starker, for her performances have had been disappointing throughout the season, this far.

In a state of constant flux

The two-time Major champion has a 19-11 win-to-loss record in the first five months of the year, with eight of these 11 losses coming against players ranked inside the top-30. And let alone winning a title, Kerber only has one final to show for her position at the top of the ranking. There again, in the sole final she has had reached this year – in Monterrey, which is played on outdoor hard courts – she was convincingly beaten by the second seed, and (then) 16th ranked, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Then, in spite of trying to pick up and sort out the entangled threads of the Women’s Tennis Association, these inconsistencies make it easier to pinpoint that Kerber isn’t that different from the rest of the troubled playing order who preceded her as the world No 1, during their respective peaks.

Like Kerber put forth about trying to chalk up a plan of action for the forthcoming French Open, all these former pros, too, made attempts to come up with a convincing module to help them win Majors, though their conviction invariably fell short of the victory margin in the end. However, while these names – ranging from Dinara Safina to Caroline Wozniacki, with the Dane making a foray anew into the upper rungs of the WTA Tour – never let their despondency overpower their careers, it’s worth wondering whether the same can be said for Kerber?

For, there seems to be more than mere rhetoric in her question about wanting to find solutions before heading to Paris. It feels as though she doesn’t know where to go seeking for the form that had made her so dominant back in 2016. Or whether, she can even go back to being that player she was for that interlude, which now feels brief as it was sudden in its occurrence.

It’s then in this answered questions that the flux that has had long greeted women’s tennis has been heightened, showing it to be more open-ended than the projected result at the end of the fortnight at Roland Garros.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

India’s urban water crisis calls for an integrated approach

We need solutions that address different aspects of the water eco-system and involve the collective participation of citizens and other stake-holders.

According to a UN report, around 1.2 billion people, or almost one fifth of the world’s population, live in areas where water is physically scarce and another 1.6 billion people, or nearly one quarter of the world’s population, face economic water shortage. They lack basic access to water. The criticality of the water situation across the world has in fact given rise to speculations over water wars becoming a distinct possibility in the future. In India the problem is compounded, given the rising population and urbanization. The Asian Development Bank has forecast that by 2030, India will have a water deficit of 50%.

Water challenges in urban India

For urban India, the situation is critical. In 2015, about 377 million Indians lived in urban areas and by 2030, the urban population is expected to rise to 590 million. Already, according to the National Sample Survey, only 47% of urban households have individual water connections and about 40% to 50% of water is reportedly lost in distribution systems due to various reasons. Further, as per the 2011 census, only 32.7% of urban Indian households are connected to a piped sewerage system.

Any comprehensive solution to address the water problem in urban India needs to take into account the specific challenges around water management and distribution:

Pressure on water sources: Rising demand on water means rising pressure on water sources, especially in cities. In a city like Mumbai for example, 3,750 Million Litres per Day (MLD) of water, including water for commercial and industrial use, is available, whereas 4,500 MLD is needed. The primary sources of water for cities like Mumbai are lakes created by dams across rivers near the city. Distributing the available water means providing 386,971 connections to the city’s roughly 13 million residents. When distribution becomes challenging, the workaround is to tap ground water. According to a study by the Centre for Science and Environment, 48% of urban water supply in India comes from ground water. Ground water exploitation for commercial and domestic use in most cities is leading to reduction in ground water level.

Distribution and water loss issues: Distribution challenges, such as water loss due to theft, pilferage, leaky pipes and faulty meter readings, result in unequal and unregulated distribution of water. In New Delhi, for example, water distribution loss was reported to be about 40% as per a study. In Mumbai, where most residents get only 2-5 hours of water supply per day, the non-revenue water loss is about 27% of the overall water supply. This strains the municipal body’s budget and impacts the improvement of distribution infrastructure. Factors such as difficult terrain and legal issues over buildings also affect water supply to many parts. According to a study, only 5% of piped water reaches slum areas in 42 Indian cities, including New Delhi. A 2011 study also found that 95% of households in slum areas in Mumbai’s Kaula Bunder district, in some seasons, use less than the WHO-recommended minimum of 50 litres per capita per day.

Water pollution and contamination: In India, almost 400,000 children die every year of diarrhea, primarily due to contaminated water. According to a 2017 report, 630 million people in the South East Asian countries, including India, use faeces-contaminated drinking water source, becoming susceptible to a range of diseases. Industrial waste is also a major cause for water contamination, particularly antibiotic ingredients released into rivers and soils by pharma companies. A Guardian report talks about pollution from drug companies, particularly those in India and China, resulting in the creation of drug-resistant superbugs. The report cites a study which indicates that by 2050, the total death toll worldwide due to infection by drug resistant bacteria could reach 10 million people.

A holistic approach to tackling water challenges

Addressing these challenges and improving access to clean water for all needs a combination of short-term and medium-term solutions. It also means involving the community and various stakeholders in implementing the solutions. This is the crux of the recommendations put forth by BASF.

The proposed solutions, based on a study of water issues in cities such as Mumbai, take into account different aspects of water management and distribution. Backed by a close understanding of the cost implications, they can make a difference in tackling urban water challenges. These solutions include:

Recycling and harvesting: Raw sewage water which is dumped into oceans damages the coastal eco-system. Instead, this could be used as a cheaper alternative to fresh water for industrial purposes. According to a 2011 World Bank report, 13% of total freshwater withdrawal in India is for industrial use. What’s more, the industrial demand for water is expected to grow at a rate of 4.2% per year till 2025. Much of this demand can be met by recycling and treating sewage water. In Mumbai for example, 3000 MLD of sewage water is released, almost 80% of fresh water availability. This can be purified and utilised for industrial needs. An example of recycled sewage water being used for industrial purpose is the 30 MLD waste water treatment facility at Gandhinagar and Anjar in Gujarat set up by Welspun India Ltd.

Another example is the proposal by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to recycle and reclaim sewage water treated at its existing facilities to meet the secondary purposes of both industries and residential complexes. In fact, residential complexes can similarly recycle and re-use their waste water for secondary purposes such as gardening.

Also, alternative rain water harvesting methods such as harvesting rain water from concrete surfaces using porous concrete can be used to supplement roof-top rain water harvesting, to help replenish ground water.

Community initiatives to supplement regular water supply: Initiatives such as community water storage and decentralised treatment facilities, including elevated water towers or reservoirs and water ATMs, based on a realistic understanding of the costs involved, can help support the city’s water distribution. Water towers or elevated reservoirs with onsite filters can also help optimise the space available for water distribution in congested cities. Water ATMs, which are automated water dispensing units that can be accessed with a smart card or an app, can ensure metered supply of safe water.

Testing and purification: With water contamination being a big challenge, the adoption of affordable and reliable multi-household water filter systems which are electricity free and easy to use can help, to some extent, access to safe drinking water at a domestic level. Also, the use of household water testing kits and the installation of water quality sensors on pipes, that send out alerts on water contamination, can create awareness of water contamination and drive suitable preventive steps.

Public awareness and use of technology: Public awareness campaigns, tax incentives for water conservation and the use of technology interfaces can also go a long way in addressing the water problem. For example, measures such as water credits can be introduced with tax benefits as incentives for efficient use and recycling of water. Similarly, government water apps, like that of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, can be used to spread tips on water saving, report leakage or send updates on water quality.

Collaborative approach: Finally, a collaborative approach like the adoption of a public-private partnership model for water projects can help. There are already examples of best practices here. For example, in Netherlands, water companies are incorporated as private companies, with the local and national governments being majority shareholders. Involving citizens through social business models for decentralised water supply, treatment or storage installations like water ATMs, as also the appointment of water guardians who can report on various aspects of water supply and usage can help in efficient water management. Grass-root level organizations could be partnered with for programmes to spread awareness on water safety and conservation.

For BASF, the proposed solutions are an extension of their close engagement with developing water management and water treatment solutions. The products developed specially for waste and drinking water treatment, such as Zetag® ULTRA and Magnafloc® LT, focus on ensuring sustainability, efficiency and cost effectiveness in the water and sludge treatment process.

BASF is also associated with operations of Reliance Industries’ desalination plant at Jamnagar in Gujarat.The thermal plant is designed to deliver up to 170,000 cubic meters of processed water per day. The use of inge® ultrafiltration technologies allows a continuous delivery of pre-filtered water at a consistent high-quality level, while the dosage of the Sokalan® PM 15 I protects the desalination plant from scaling. This combination of BASF’s expertise minimises the energy footprint of the plant and secures water supply independent of the seasonal fluctuations. To know more about BASF’s range of sustainable solutions and innovative chemical products for the water industry, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.