CHENNAI: It’s 2005. Two-time French Open runner-up Alex Corretja is diagnosed with macular haemorrhage in his left eye. Surgery rids him of the ailment, but the Spaniard can’t see well enough to compete professionally. It’s time to call it a career. With the year-end championships, Davis Cup and Olympic medal (bronze in doubles) to his name, the former World No 2 exits with his held high.
It’s 2015. A 41-year-old Corretja makes his Champions Tour debut in Mallorca. Vision recovered, he overcomes one-time rivals Henri Leconte, Tim Henman and Thomas Enqvist to emerge champion. Maybe he still has something left to offer?
Three weeks hence, Corretja’s eyes are now focussed on a different kind of prize — the Champions Tennis League (CTL) trophy. The second season of Vijay Amritraj’s brainchild will be held from November 23 to December 6 across six cities. Corretja is the legend with Nagpur Orangers. Interestingly, he has never been to India, despite numerous opportunities to participate at the Chennai Open.
“It’s a shame that I’ve not visited India before. I got many offers to show up in Chennai, but hardly played events in the first week of the year, so that never happened. Hopefully, the CTL will allow me to savour the country. I’d like that very much,” he said from Barcelona.
Quizzed about what attracted him to the fledgling league, he says it’s nice to be able to compete with foes-turned-friends. “It’ll be enjoyable for both players and fans and I’m expecting good competition, spirit and crowds. The point is such combined events help promote a Davis Cup-like atmosphere, which is lacking on the day-to-day tour. Sometimes, the lone wolf needs to experience the nurture and care a family provides.”
Coming from a country that boasts n-number of players in the top 100 at any given point, he laments the fact that current economy troubles have had an impact and reduced the flow of fine talent. “It’s hard because we had upto 35 players in the top 100 at one point, but now it’s only 14,” he opined.
The former Davis Cup skipper mentored Andy Murray from 2008 to 2011, drawing on his own experience in Major finals to help bring the Scot up to speed.
Although he wasn’t able to crack the code back then, Murray’s subsequent success has pleased him. “I did my best to help him and he imbibed as much as possible.”