“One day it’ll go back to serve and volley”

The 78-year-old eight-time national champion, who was there at the Madras Cricket Club (MCC) to launch SportstarLive, spoke about his memories of Sportstar, the current state of tennis in India and serve and volley, among other things.

Ramanathan Krishnan at the Sportstar Digital Edition launch on Sunday.   -  The Hindu

Born in Boothapandi village near Nagercoil, Ramanathan Krishnan went on to beat all-time tennis greats Rod Laver and Roy Emerson in their prime. Krishnan reached the Wimbledon men’s singles semi-finals in 1960 and ’61 — one of the best performances among Indian singles players till now. The 78-year-old eight-time national champion, who was there at the Madras Cricket Club (MCC) to launch SportstarLive, spoke about his memories of Sportstar, the current state of tennis in India and serve and volley, among other things.

How do you find the current status of tennis in India as compared to your days?

There is a lot of pressure on the youngsters today to become good. There is so much depth in world tennis. In my time there used to be 200-250 international players. Today, the number maybe 5000 or 10000. And, our geographical location makes it difficult for our players to travel to America or Europe (where most of the major tennis tournaments take place). So, it makes it harder for them to compete and win on the world stage.

India has had a considerable success in doubles over the years. In singles, they haven’t made it big. What do you think is the reason?

Well, doubles was very popular in my time. The crowds used to love doubles more. But unfortunately, it is losing its importance now. Not many players prefer it. But our players are doing well in doubles, which is good. It would have been nicer if they had played both. But it’s their choice.

But the reason we are not doing well in singles, is it because of injuries?

It is because of depth. There is too much competition. So, it is better to do well in one event. Also, when you play more and more singles the physique develops. You are not born with ‘physique’. Doubles doesn’t require much strain. If you play more singles, the stamina will inevitably develop.

In your days, the game was more about ‘serve and volley’. And now, heavy-hitters like Nadal, Djokovic, and Wawrinka dominate the game. What do you think about the transformation in the game?

Of course, things have changed. Now there are more baseline shots, double-handed backhands, top-spin backhands. The surfaces have become slower. Balls have become slower. Bjorn Borg started this and it has stayed. But people will get fed up of it sometime, and one day it will go back to serve and volley.

What is the best and worst thing to being a sportsperson in India?

Being a sportsperson, there can’t be anything really bad. The best thing is it will help you keep fit, physically and mentally. And, the worst thing is that if you don’t win, you would be heavily disappointed.

What do you think the game has given to you?

I have learnt more things by playing tennis and travelling than in my school or college. It was my biggest education.

How long have you been reading Sportstar and what is your impression of it?

It was called Sport and Pastime 70 years ago. I am probably the only sportsperson alive now who has read the first issue.