Vijay Amritraj: ‘Ramkumar’s win a shot in the arm for Indian tennis’

“This is the kind of break-out win we need to be able to get our boys and girls up the rankings and make them compete where they should be competing. The focus needs to be on singles and the focus needs to be on these wins.”

Indian Tennis legend Vijay Amritraj hoped that the win wouldn't turn out to be a flash in the pan for Ramkumar Ramanathan.   -  K. Murali Kumar

If one has to go back nearly two decades to find a win as big as the one Ramkumar Ramanathan had on Tuesday after beating World No. 8 Dominic Thiem in Antalya Open, it speaks volumes about the current state of Indian tennis.

But back in the 1970s and 80s, well before Leander Paes and Ramesh Krishnan had their own seismic wins, Vijay Amritraj did it repeatedly, at the highest level, beating the likes of Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe.

“I think Ramkumar's win is a terrific shot in the arm for Indian tennis,” Vijay told Sportstar on Wednesday. “This is the kind of break-out win we need to be able to get our boys and girls up the rankings and make them compete where they should be competing. The focus needs to be on singles and the focus needs to be on these wins.”

It was 1973 when Vijay had his first significant singles success when he reached two Major quarterfinals and beat the legendary Laver twice. In 1974, he beat Borg at the U.S. Open and in 1981, in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, he lost to Connors after being two sets up. In fact, against Connors he had a more than creditable win-loss record of 5-6.

“Mine was different,” Vijay explained. “By 18 I won the national championship by beating [Ramanthan] Krishnan. By 19, I was among the world's top players. At one point I missed the World Championship by one spot. So that's a lot different.”

“But it obviously makes you believe that you are not just capable of having big wins, but you belong in that league. That's important for Ram because if you keep playing Futures and Challengers your entire life, that's where you will end up being. It was great to see him battle through the qualifying. Thiem was playing his first match, but you need such breaks against top players and when you get such opportunities, you should be able to cash in.”

Vijay hoped that the win wouldn't turn out to be a flash in the pan. Definitely not at a time when India has zero entries in the singles event at Wimbledon, qualifying and the main draw combined, for the first time at a Grand Slam tournament, since French Open 2012.

“You don't want to be a one win wonder. Getting to the quarters is a good effort and there is no reason he can't get into the semis when you can take out somebody this good. Kidambi Srikanth proved it so well at the Australian Open, by not only getting to the semis, and finals, but actually winning it.”

“Srikanth of course has been doing it for sometime in the upper echelons of badminton. But for Ram this is a wonderful break. He shouldn't be pleasantly surprised or satisfied. It should be like 'this is fantastic and I am good enough to win the tournament.'

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