From tennis player to tennis commentator, and now a tennis league founder. Vijay Amritraj hopes his Champions Tennis League, that starts in six Indian cities next month, can help India's players.
David Ferrer, Venus Williams and Martina Hingis are among the big international names, who will be a part of Amritraj's league. Â
Q: These are exciting times for Indian tennis, with not one but two tennis leagues to be played here next month. Obviously a lot has changed from the days you played tennis in India. But is India ready for so much tennis?
A: Sport has continued to change in the last 30 years in India since I played, and today it is people thinking and parents thinking that it is time to take sport as a career. That thought processs never existed when I was playing. So I think we have come a long way; we have pushed a long way in taking our sport forward.
Q: Comparisons are inevitable with Mahesh Bhupathi's league though you have said that your league is not a response to it, they clearly have very different objectives. This is more of an India centric league and are players are going to benefit more from it?
A: Oh definitely. I think this is the only India centric league. I think Mahesh is doing a terrific job for Asian tennis. Singapore, Manila and Dubai and Delhi as one of the teams. It is great for us, tremendous for Indian tennis because it is India centric in six cities and it is also for the development of junior tennis so the young juniors we have in India picked by the All India Tennis Association are going to have the ability to be playing alongside the likes of David Ferrer, Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic.
Q: Where do you see Indian tennis realistically from this point, let's say 5 years down the line?
A: Well we do not have anybody winning singles for us and that's the bottom-line, and I think it is across the board. We have not had anyone in singles in top 25 among men or women and I don't know for how long, and I think that is the critical element. We need to stay focussed. People start playing tennis because they want to play singles, they don't start playing because they want to play doubles.
So I think it is important for our juniors to understand that the committment and sacrifice that goes into it is eternal if you want to be committed to making it to the sport.
Q:Where do you think we are lacking? You've got a country like China which has produced a Grand Slam champion in Li Na and Kei Nishikori of Japan made it to a Grand Slam final too. So, why are our players failing to do so?
A: No it has taken a while for a Japanese to be able to reach the final of a grand slam. That was unheard of and I think they were struggling for a long long time... for a long time that had to with the element thatÂ we were small we were not physically strong enough. After I had played the best in Asia for many years, came Paradorn Scrichaphan and not since Paradorn have we had Kei Nishikori coming from Japan. The best thing about Kei is the fact that he is not a very big guy.
So he is physically more sort of Asian in stature and having done so well is really what is so impressive.
So I think the future is very very bright. We have got some very good male youngsters coming, we got some good youngsters among girls playing. It has become a very physical sport and we have to understand that it is a physical sport and we got to be more physical as well in our performance.
Q: We have a host of international players coming to India which is great for Indian tennis fans. Roger Federer will be spending very little time in India, but because it is so little time he has appealed to his fans to help him out to plan his schedule in India. So if you had to say three things Federer had to do while in India what would they be?
A: The 3 things he must do is stay longer, stay longer, stay longer.