HYDERABAD: Tennis legend Vijay Amritraj said tennis in India has been progressing on the right track, and asserted that more players from the country would feature in top-flight tournaments sooner than later. Amritraj was also of the opinion that the Champions Tennis League (CTL) is one of the primary factors that gave confidence to 35-year-old Martina Hingis to play the best players in the world. While speaking on the occasion during the unveiling of the Hyderabad Aces jersey with owner Rajesh Dandu, Amritraj said: “Hyderabad will host the match on November 29 and 30. It will also host the final on December 6. The CTL will kick off in Mumbai on November 23 and will see 13 matches played over a two-week period.’’
On Indian tennis
What has really improved over the last few years is the interest among the kids who want to play more tennis. We have more coaching schemes across the country. There are a lot of tennis pros in India teaching tennis. That was not the case say 15 years ago. More kids are believing in now that they can take tennis on serious basis not just to become a tennis professional player but also get scholarships in universities in foreign. It gives them opportunity to join big colleges. On professional tours, most of our performances have come in doubles. It is critical for men’s tennis to make the world group in Davis Cup. If you want to be top 16 team, you have to have players in the top 100, hopefully in the top 50 to make the world group. If you don’t have, you are going to struggle because everyone there is in top 25. The Fed Cup too is similar.
On Rio Olympics
Olympics comes in every four years. My point is tennis a non-seasonal sport. Our sport is 11 months in a year, not in NBA, IPL or AFL or ISL. We start in January and finish towards November. Nobody looks forward to the Olympics Games like Usain Bolt or Mo Farah would do. In tennis, we look to the next Grand Slam.
On India’s chances in Rio
I look forward to Rio. I think we have tremendous chance to win a medal in Olympics as far as doubles is concerned. I think we can win medal in the men’s and mixed doubles.
On young Indian players in CTL
One of our girls (Pranjala) in CTL had reached the third round of US Open juniors. That is a very good yardstick for us to say it truly helps the junior in achieving greater heights.
On Martina Hingis
What she has achieved over the years is spectacular. The amazing thing she has come back after so many years of hiatus. I do believe firmly that the fact she played in CTL last year gave her that kind of confidence that she can compete with these players in the world, the top 20 and 25 in the world in singles. She beat Venus Williams twice last year in the league matches. She played a very tight game against (Agnieszka ) Radwanska as well. She realized her quality of her performance last year itself. It gives the impetus and belief that at my age I’m good enough, even it is in doubles.
On Hingis being retained by Hyderabad
She wanted to come back. Hyderabad wanted her. Each team had the option to retain one player and Hyderabad choose to retain Martina. Now she is coming back at the peak after an incredible 2015. I think it will also bode her well for the 2016. The players like to repeat what they did before in the way they prepare for Grand Slams. Stan Wawrinka is a good example. He likes to play the Chennai Open before he plays the Australian Open. He would like to win at the start of a new year. So, Martina did well in CTL, she really wanted to come back.
We can’t expect all 18 foreign players to perform remarkable well. We tend to go entirely by ranking and we are looking to he top 20-25 players in the world. It is their desire to come back and this year we have good number of players coming back. We have also new players. Certainly the value of CTL is stronger than 2013.
On Sania-Hingis show
The way Sania plays from the back of the court, her monumental forehand and the way Martina plays at the net, including the deft touches...I think both of them combined extremely well.