Tennis great Vijay Amritraj says there should be least controversy with regards to India’s doubles combination in Davis Cup since the doubles match matters only when there are “even singles matches”.
AITA has teamed up Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna for the next month’s tie against China despite latter’s reservations about being paired with the veteran legend.
Asked if it was a good idea to pair the players, who do not share chemistry, Amritraj said “I dont know” but pointed that those players, who play together on the Tour are likely to have a better chance to win in Davis Cup too.
In this case, both Paes and Bopanna play with different partners on the ATP Tour.
“It’s a such secondary issue for me. The first issue is always four singles. Our goal is to get into the World Group and play well in the World Group. To get into the World Group, you need to have top-50 players. Every other issue is going to come and go. They are making a mountain out of a molehill, to be honest,” Amritraj told PTI during an interaction on the sidelines of Road to Wimbledon (RTW) event.
“Nobody starts playing tennis, thinking of becoming doubles or mixed doubles specialist. Tell a five year old child, he won’t say ‘I want to be the best mixed doubles player’. It does not work like that. You want to be the next Roger Federer and the next Rafael Nadal. That’s the goal.”
When pointed out that doubles has always been India’s strong point over the years, Amritraj agreed.
“(Doubles is still important) when it comes down to very even (on even keel) singles matches. Important aspect is how to get there where the singles matches are even and doubles is going to matter.”
Amritraj asserted that it would be difficult to produce results in Davis Cup if the players have not played together on consistent basis.
“These players have to play together to play Davis Cup. We had good years in Davis Cup when all the way from Krishnans (Ramanathan and then Ramesh), to Jaideep (Mukerjea) and Premjit (Lal) to Anand and myself, Leander and Mahesh played. All those were good teams because we played together whole year.
“Today also you have to play together during the course of the year, it’s difficult to suddenly pick up someone and play well together (in Davis Cup), if you have not played together (on Tour),” Amritraj said.
The 64-year-old, who is now a commentator, said he was not in favour of tinkering with the Davis Cup format and suggested that the ITF should make competition in the elite World Group a biennial affair with all top players part of it.
International Tennis Federation (ITF), the world governing body, introduced three-set matches in two-day competition in the zonal competitions, instead of traditional five-set matches across three days.
Amritraj, who was ranked as high as 16 in the singles in his illustrious career, said tradition of the Davis Cup needs to be maintained.
“Perhaps that’s what (keep Davis Cup relevant to to players) they are doing. The mind set for kid starting to play for his country, should be to play Davis Cup. And for that you need to keen in mind five sets and three days because that’s what you are going to be playing at the Grand Slams as well,” Amritraj, who is brand ambassador of Rolex, the partners of RTW, said.
“If you want to reduce Davis Cup, because it’s too much for top players because they are playing consistently and you are not getting them to play Davis Cup every year, we can look at other options. Maybe we need to make some changes but not these ones.”
Asked what’s best possible option according to him, Amritraj, who made Wimbledon and US Open singles quarterfinals in 1973 said, “there is one option of playing World Group matches in every two years.”
“Let’s say, Czech Republic plays France in the final in November, by March, they have to play again. And right after the Grand Slams, they have Indian Wells and you are already looking into defending what you did last year. So, the top guys find that little pushed, which I can understand.
“There is World Cup after four years, Commonwealth Games. To make the World Group is special, so maybe it can be considered. Best players must play the World Group.
Amritraj said India players mature physically later mentally sooner than the Europeans, and that’s why 25-year-old Yuki Bhambri, India’s top singles player struggled in the last few years with injuries since he adopted Western methods of training.
“This guy has a good chance to be in top-50. He is coming to his own,” he signed off.