Serbian Great Slobodan Zivojinovic Bemoans Lack of Action in Modern Tennis
Before Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori met with unexpected success, at least one of the top-four - Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray - played the finals of all Grand Slams since 2005.
Slobodan Zivojinovic, the first Serb to become a global tennis star, says nothing could have been better for the game than Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori competing for the US Open title since the modern game has been deprived of "action" due to the top four's domination. (Davis Cup: India Set for Battle Royal Against Serbia)
Zivojinovic, known as Bobo, was a true entertainer in his days. His Australian Open quarterfinal win over American great John McEnroe in 1985 is still a part of tennis folklore.
Zivojinovic first came to India in 1988 when he beat Ramesh Krishnan and Vijay Amritraj for Yugoslavia's 3-2 win over in a Davis Cup tie. And now he is traveling with the visiting Serbian team's tie scheduled to start tomorrow.
Zivojonovic says dominance of the top-four in the last few years made the game predictable, which was not good for the sport.
"The world is getting faster and faster, you have sports with more action. If you don't see action, young kids do not like it. They go for extreme sports. Every match is the same. Time to time, you see them doing well.
"The top four guys were there for years in Grand Slam finals, so nothing is new. It's getting boring," Zivojonovic told PTI in a chat.
"Tennis is slowing down, there is no action. If you break the racquet, you get penalties," he rued indicating that the game needs characters to draw attention of new audience.
Bobo, who had a huge serve in his playing days, said Nishikori's success at the US Open has come at a good time, keeping in the mind the huge population of a few Asian regions.
"It's important for tennis that somebody from Japan came all the way, as well as from China, because this part needs results and heroes for the huge populations," the 51-year-old said.
Asked if it was the end of an era with none of the top-four making the US Open title clash, Zivojonovic said tennis needs better athletes in singles in top-10 and not the baseliners.
"There are no athletes, the way it used to be. They are now for long run. They are playing good tennis without doubt, there's technology, style of the racquet.
"But I think, we need to have in the top-10, better players because Djoko, Rafa have problems with injuries, Roger Federer is playing well but we don't know how long he's going to stay there. Murray is the player, going up and down," Zivojonovic said.
"There's more action in doubles, more fun to watch doubles than singles." His native country Serbia has a population of only seven crore, but still boasts of singles Grand Slam winners in Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic.
They have five players in the top-100 in both men's and women's tennis.
Asked how Serbia, despite being a small country, managed to produce champions, Zivojonovic struggled. "It's very difficult to say. This is a question every big country asks me. It's not easy to explain," he said.
Push him more and he says, "I think that is in tradition, we are very talented in sport in the region. Let's say in junior time, around Europe, there are many tournaments. From the junior time, we have top one or two players, so probably it's about this. For India, you have to fly and it's not easy.
"If you ask me what's the secret, nobody knows. It's something about nature, something about family. This question was asked to me even in England and the United States, the biggest sports country in the world and I had no answer."
"We have a national centre, it's mixture of federation, family. It's a bit more complicated. You could have the best tennis facilities but that does not mean you can make a champion.
Talking about his visit to India after 26 years, he said "It's very, very emotional for me. I am happy and pleased that I am back here with great hospitality and great people.
"Everything is the same, the memories of 1988 are back in my mind. The organisation and everything else have been great since we arrived."