Mumbai, Nov 3: Remembered specially for his exploits at the 1974 US Open where he knocked out then French Open champion and World No.4 Bjorn Borg, Indian tennis legend Vijay Amritraj couldn’t refrain from praising Sania Mirza for her consistency and dream run which has fetched her 10 doubles titles in 2015.
The unstoppable duo of Mirza and Swiss veteran Martina Hingis came up with another stupendous performance on Sunday to win the women’s doubles title at the prestigious $7 million WTA Finals in Singapore. This is the pair’s ninth title together this season, having also won in Beijing, Wuhan, Guangzhou, US Open (New York), Wimbledon (London), Charleston, Miami and Indian Wells.
Sania also won at the Sydney International in January with American Bethanie Mattek-Sands to have her doubles trophy count to 10 this year. “It’s terrific. I have even posted that on twitter today saying that it was a spectacular victory and run at the WTA finals for Sania. She and Hingis complement each other very well. Hingis is very skillful at the nets and Sania is powerful from the baseline. They make a great combination and now their confidence is very high as well,” Amritraj told IANS in an interview here.
“In doubles you need to have a good partner. It is important to understand your partner well both on and off the court. Nowadays those who play singles, don’t play doubles that much, so the players who play doubles, play for a longer duration of time and so the consistency is there,” the 61-year-old said. Reigning US Open champion Flavia Pennetta and Hingis are among the foreign attractions in the upcoming second season of the Champions Tennis League (CTL).
The CTL, which features six city-based franchises, will be held from November 23 to December 6. Apart from international male and female players, each team will also have an international legend as their playing captain. They will also include an Indian male player and a top ranked junior Indian girl and boy from each city.
Amritraj, who is the mastermind behind this league, believes that with India struggling to develop world class talent in the singles category, the CTL will hopefully find a way out in the years to come. Currently India have only Yuki Bhambri (89) in the top 100 of the men’s singles rankings with next best player Somdev Devvarman (180) ranked close to 200.
“We don’t have a problem with doubles, problem is with the singles. We are not being able to break into the top 50-60 players. I am very happy to see that Yuki has broken into the top 100. That is a huge milestone and he will capitalise on it and he is doing all the right things. Somdev is having a little bit of letdown in the confidence. He still has it in him to break into top 100. We need these guys to push each other to get into top 100 and then into top 50,” he said.
The Padma Shri award winner pointed out that the 12 young Indian players accompanying top foreign players during CTL will give them a lot of confidence and change them as a player. “For the last 25 years nobody is searching for new singles talent in India. Everybody does it on their won. Junior does it on his own, works with coaches, he spends his own money to be able to do it,” said Amritraj, who had a career singles win-loss record of 384-296, and winning 16 singles and 13 doubles titles.
“What CTL has done is given the 12 young Indian players a platform to play with the great tennis legends and get close to them. We are giving the juniors a strong healthy opportunity which nobody has given them in this country since independence. I hope CTL will eventually help produce good Indian singles player,” he said.
The tennis legend who made notable appearance as MI6 agent Vijay in the 1983 James Bond film ‘Octopussy’, said the game has changed drastically from his time, adding that players are now focussed on attacking from the back and playing from the baseline rather than the serve and volley game of his days.
“The game has changed dramatically now compared to when I was playing. The game has ended up being changed gradually from being a serve, volley game and attacking from the back court to being very much like a baseline game. So you have to be very much physical from the back of the court now. Before we were attacking constantly at the net and today players are attacking from the back,” he said.
Speaking on the men’s doubles partnership of Leander Paes-Mahesh Bhupathi, which had ended in acrimony a long time ago, he said, “I missed Paes-Bhupathi partnership long time back but I got used to it like everyone else. It was something we all missed so much. Because in 1999 when they did so well, they should have stayed together for the next 10 years. There is no reason for them not to have stayed together.”
The 61-year-old, who reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon 1976, made it clear that with players outside the top 100 or 50 will be difficult for the country to push through in four singles matches at the Davis Cup playoff stage.
“In the Davis Cup, it is very hard to compete with players with World rank 40 and 50, if you don’t have players also in top 40 or 50. It is difficult to play four singles matches with your player not ranked within 100 spots of the other guy. If you have a player in top 50 or 60 then you have a very good chance to compete in the world group,” Amritraj concluded.