Amritraj: 'Every time I go through gate No.5 at Wimbledon, I get goose bumps'

Vijay asked the under-14 players to listen to their coaches and ‘’try to get a bit better’’ every time they train.

Vijay Amritraj interacting with the youngsters during the Road to Wimbledon tennis at the Delhi Gymkhana on Tuesday.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

Vijay Amritraj inspired the players of Road to Wimbledon with his energetic words, as he goaded them to ride on their desire and work hard as if there was no tomorrow.

Quite pleased to be at the Delhi Gymkhana Club, where he had won the final of a $25,000 event, in 1973, ‘’from being two match points down in the fifth set, against Mal Anderson’’, Vijay asked the under-14 players to listen to their coaches and ‘’try to get a bit better’’ every time they train.

"You put everything because you can do it at this age. Everyone is supporting you. Once you get on the court, you are on your own. Nobody can help you. Wimbledon is brought to you. I missed the dinner the day before my match when I was a 15-year-old to buy the ticket for the standing room in Wimbledon. I have not missed Wimbledon in 47 years. Every time I go through gate No.5, I get goosebumps’’, said Vijay, as he addressed the kids, and those from the Magic Bus project.

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"You will lose a lot, and fail a lot. Learn from losing, and never lose twice to the same guy. Work hard. Believe in yourself," he said.

Having watched Yuki Bhambri recently in the Challenger final in Chennai, and observing the way he has been playing Indian Wells and now Miami, Vijay said that there was no doubt that Yuki was a top-50 player.

"Indians mature late physically, and early mentally. The Europeans mature physically early and mentally later. I have told Yuki that his best years would be from 25 years to 33. When we try to push hard physically, it leads to injuries," said Vijay.

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He was equally appreciative of the progress made by Ramkumar Ramanathan and said that India had a "very good chance’’ against China, in the Davis Cup tie, in April, in Tianjin.

Vijay was also categorical that he felt very strongly about Davis Cup, and that he could not digest the new format of best-of-three sets instead of five, and matches finishing in two days instead of three.

The British coach Dan Bloxham said that the Wimbledon Foundation was more focused on providing quality support to the top-16 players with the available resources so that they could be better equipped.

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"We had a specialist woman coach, who helps players in the 16-18 age group, to guide the girls during the event in Kolkata," Dan recalled. He also said that former Davis Cupper Vishaal Uppal would help the young players with the nuances of grass court play this week.

While everyone expressed how they missed Paul Hutchins this time, Matthew Stacie of Magic Bus appreciated the long-term contract of Wimbledon Foundation, as tennis helped the youngsters from humble background "to be accepted in a club, and change their mindset and change their behaviour, with boys and girls playing together’’.

On behalf of the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Manpreet Kandhari praised Wimbledon Foundation for making a difference to the career of juniors.

Cdre Anil Jain Singh, of the Gymkhana Club, concluded nicely by recalling how his dad had let him take leave from school for a week to watch the tennis tournament, in which Vijay Amritraj had emerged the champion then.

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