CHENNAI: Twenty years is a long time and despite vast improvements in tennis the world over an Indian is yet to win the Chennai Open. Somdev Devvarman came close to winning it when he reached the final in 2009 but now his form has nosedived and he is ranked 180 in the world. The big question is do the current lot of Indian players have it in them to win an ATP tournament, leave alone Grand Slams? Every year, it is the same old story of an Indian making to the main draw in the Chennai Open and losing in the first round.
Indian tennis legend Ramanathan Krishnan, who was ranked third before the Open Era began and beat top players of his time, believes that the work ethic of players who come from Europe and USA is better than the Indians and this has helped them fare better on the circuit.
“Today the competition is so tough in world tennis. It was not that intense in our times. We knew the players in the circuit and could be confident of not being ousted in the first round. But today even a Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal can be knocked off in a tournament by a rookie. That’s world tennis today. But the Federers and Nadals have the ability to bounce back, uplift the quality of their play at the right moment. That’s why they have won so many Grand Slams,” said Krishnan.
“Indian players lag behind in all departments. They are mentally and physically not tough enough for the grind,” added Krishnan.
The question most talked about in the SDAT Tennis Stadium in Nungambakkam is what it takes for an Indian to beat a higher-ranked player. Despite having several support staff they are found wanting.
“My father instilled in me the importance of the right combination of coaching, training and match play is the formula and a never-say-die attitude will propel a player up the ladder.”
Krishnan who made his son Ramesh win the junior Wimbledon crown and also groomed him to be a good Davis Cup player says the future of Indian tennis depends upon players’ ability to play 20-25 weeks abroad in quality tournaments. “At the junior level the players are doing well. But they are found wanting in the pro circuit. The Junior to pro circuit transition is where our players miss out against the rest of the world. After a stage there is no point in coaching or academy visits abroad. The key is exposure.”
Coming back to the tournament, Krishnan wishes to put his money on Stan Wawrinka and believes that Somdev can bounce back. “Wawrinka is the guy to beat at the Open. If you have seen him in the last two seasons or so he is a vastly improved player. He is mentally strong and his game is on par with the best in the world. Rankings at times do not reflect a player’s class. So, Somdev may be down at the moment, but he has played in the city for a long, long time and should bounce back.”