Vijay Amritraj: 'We need players in the top-50'

Former Indian tennis great Vijay Amritraj speaks about Indian kids getting a chance to play at Wimbledon; Roger Federer; Indian tennis among other things.

"When you first play in Wimbledon as a junior, your feet don’t move. You are nervous."   -  R. RAVINDRAN

Playing at Wimbledon is a dream for every kid, who twirls a tennis racquet. When the opportunity comes to Indian kids when they are 13 or 14 years old, it gives them a chance to get used to the big stage and fuel their pursuit of goals with conviction.

Former Indian tennis great Vijay Amritraj said that such an opportunity was "unimaginable" when he started playing.

"I hope the players and parents understand the importance of this event, and that it is a privilege to be part of it," he told Sportstar on Monday.

"Hats off to Wimbledon and Rolex for doing it," said Vijay, about the initiative, which has entered the fourth year.

He said that kids of his time had two goals when they started playing tennis.

"First goal was to somehow play in Wimbledon, and then play Davis Cup at the highest level," he said.

Vijay said that the initiative would help to deal with the kids' nervousness.

"When you first play in Wimbledon as a junior, your feet don’t move. You are nervous. Kids now get an early opportunity to be in Wimbledon and believe that they belong there," he said.

Wimbledon, he said, was just giving the kids a chance to have a look at the cherry on the cake, and not giving the cake itself.

"It is for the players and parents to capitalise on the inspiration to sustain their career goals in the game."

Vijay congratulated the Indian team for making it to the World Group play-off with a convincing win against Uzbekistan, and said little about the rift between the new Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes.

"In over 40 years, we have failed to see the big picture. Who has got the maximum titles in Asia. I have the maximum number of singles titles (16) and Kei Nishikori has 11. We are not trying to compare. We don’t have players competing in the Grand Slams. We need to have players in the top-50 to make the World Group in Davis Cup or Fed Cup."
 

"Our players have the talent, resources, television and the support. Eventually, it comes down to the players," said Vijay.

A strong lower body, Vijay said, is necessary to compete in the modern game. It helps the players, according to him, to stay in the points and making the right shot selection.

He said Nishikori (among the current crop of players) and Lleyton Hewitt (from the past), are players built small but use their strong legs to fight it out at the highest level.

Understandably, he was all praise for Roger Federer to be playing some of his best tennis at 35. Against Jack Sock in Indian Wells, Federer, Vijay said, was close to perfection.

"Even five years ago when people asked me whether Roger could win another Grand Slam, I had said yes. I will say yes again. Actually, he will come into Wimbledon as a favourite. It is a big worry now for the rest when he takes time off, because he comes back so much better," said Vijay.

On a different note, Vijay said that the Champions Tennis League (CTL), his pet project for two years, would come back to the Indian season this year.