CHENNAI: Three years ago, it took four hours and 37 minutes for Rafael Nadal to reach his eighth French Open final. That gruelling five-setter against Novak Djokovic was not good for his troublesome knees, however, and he has not been the same since. He did retain his French Open crown the next year, but that also happens to be his last Major success. But make no bones about it, Nadal’s fitness levels are superhuman.
Compare that with India’s Saketh Myneni. During India’s Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie against South Korea in July, Saketh struggled during his first singles game sapping climes, before withdrawing from the reverse singles.
And with the Davis Cup World Group Playoffs against Spain in New Delhi, there are concerns regarding fitness of Indians.
Speaking to Express, former Davis Cupper Vishnu Vardhan, playing in the ITF FI futures tournament here, feels having a personal fitness coach helps. “We focus a lot on skill. If you see, we’ve done well in skill-based games. Even in hockey, the change of style and play affected our performances. So mindset has to change first. I’ve travelled a lot this year, and what I noticed in tournaments outside India was that most players had personal fitness coaches. That makes a huge difference, especially as there is someone to guide you through warm-downs and relaxation after matches.”
The key could be in the way players cope with humidity in New Delhi at this time of the year. Having played in Chennai, Delhi and many other hot places, Vishnu suggested that Indians have a great advantage. “Spain is familiar with these conditions. But we’ve been playing here for many years, and should be able to capitalise on that. Also, diet depends from body to body. If you see Djokovic, gluten and dairy products are completely avoided. Despite that, he is able to perform at the highest level. You need to get various tests done to find out what proteins are easily absorbed by your body,” said Vishnu, who partnered Leander Paes at the 2012 London Games.
Doubles is India’s strength. But Saketh will have to produce magic if he is to win his first singles match against David Ferrer. With Davis Cup’s history of unbelievable upsets, Vishnu said India can spring a surprise. “In tennis, sometimes the player who does well need not win the match. Saketh’s really aggressive on court, and India can win. But Spain sending their A team hints that they mean business,” concluded the 2010 Asian Games bronze winner.
Results: Singles: QFs: Sanam Singh bt Siddharth Vishwakarma 3-6, 6-1, 6-3; N Sriram Balaji bt Niki Poonacha Kaliyanda 7-6 (1), 6-3; N Vijay Sundar Prashanth bt Rishab Agarwal 7-6(3), 6-4; Vishnu Vardhan bt Kaza Vinayak Sharma 6-4, 6-4. Doubles: SFs: N Sriram Balaji/Vishnu Vardhan bt Tyler Hochwalt/Sanam Singh 6-2, 7-5; Kunal Anand/Anvit Bendre bt Haadin Bava/ Niki Kaliyanda Poonacha7-5, 6-2.