Tendulkar spends time with the Indian contingent

The cricket legend sat through nearly three hours watching Sania Mirza and Prarthana Thombare put up a brave fight in the opening round of the women’s doubles on Saturday evening.

Sachin with Zeeshan Ali and Leander Paes during Sania's doubles match.   -  Special Arrangement

Sachin Tendulkar seated in the Royal Box may be a familiar sight during the Wimbledon fortnight.

Famously a tennis fan, the champion cricketer was spotted at the Olympic tennis centre here, where he sat through nearly three hours watching Sania Mirza and Prarthana Thombare put up a brave fight in the opening round of the women’s doubles on Saturday evening.

Tendulkar, with his left leg in a brace after a recent surgery, turned down an offer of a courtside seat to avoid the distraction his presence may cause to the athletes on court.

Seated in an unobtrusive corner of Court No.9, he even chatted with most fans who queued up to exchange pleasantries with him.

For company, Tendulkar had Leander Paes for the duration of the match. Coach Zeeshan Ali was around, too, and there seemed to be no dearth of conversation points among the trio, even though Tendulkar’s fans — among who were most media-persons — sought his attention all the time.

Keen as ever to support Indian sport, Tendulkar had visited the Olympic Village earlier in the day, and spent time with the Indian athletes present. He had photo sessions with different sets of athletes and interacted with some of them.

“I bring to you the wishes of more than a billion people from India. I am not here to give you a lecture. I know that you are among the best in your sport and have worked so hard to reach this level. All I want you to know is that the entire nation is behind you, and we all want you to do well,” Tendulkar said, as he addressed the athletes.

Stressing that it was important to improve rather than focussing on just winning medals, Tendulkar exhorted the athletes to “just do your best, and everything will follow”.

The Indian contingent’s chef de mission, Rakesh Gupta, who had received Tendulkar at the Athletes Village earlier, presented the cricketing legend with a memento.

Recalling the thrill of representing the country at a multi-discipline event at the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games in 1998, Tendulkar said: “It was a great experience. That is why I wanted to come and visit this place. The trip to Rio has been great, and I am sure all our athletes will do their best to bring laurels to India.”