NEW DELHI: It’s no secret that the temptation of watching Rafael Nadal in action has the same effect across the globe. Fans come out in hordes to take in the experience; the frenzy, for lack of a better word, is almost religious in nature. So, in a country that has millions of gods and worships certain sportspersons similarly, it’s not surprising to say the Spaniard’s appeal goes through the roof.
While the turnout for the Davis Cup Playoffs at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association Complex on Friday was outrageous – there were 4,000-plus butts in the seats and another 4,000 seat less ones inside the complex – the stands were almost full on Saturday too. Most spectators bring those near and dear, especially children, to witness the spectacle. There’s nothing like watching a superstar to inspire youngsters to take up the sport. Plus, many kids in the stands and on court – ballpersons – are budding players.
Also watching from the sidelines is Vishal Uppal, under whose captaincy the Junior Davis Cup team has been giving a good account of itself. The boys will contest the 16-team Finals in Hungary from September 27 to October 2. Talking to Express, he concedes he’s never seen a tennis event in India attract so many buffs.
“The decision to host the tie in New Delhi was perfect because it’s the biggest stadium. I’ve never seen so many people come out to watch a match. There were at least 8000 people on the grounds on Friday. It is only by bringing in such incredible players that one can attract prospective youngsters to the sport. Plus, watching such quality gives them an idea about the plentiful work that lies ahead,” the former Davis Cupper said.
In comparison to other sports, tennis presents a unique challenge – players need to figure out everything by themselves. There’s no coach or confidant out in the middle to help during hard times. One can have a plan before a match, but if that doesn’t work, all the mental gymnastics need to be done by the player in question. Uppal utilises a similar approach in training the juniors.
“When kids watch matches like these or any other, I ask them to analyse the pros and cons. It’s important to encourage free thinking; we don’t want robots out there. Tennis is all about individual problem solving. If players don’t learn this when they’re young, they’ll never get anywhere.”
Even though India has lost to Spain in the tie, Uppal feels Ramkumar Ramanathan and Saketh Myneni did a great job under the circumstances. He added the first needed better tactical nous, while the second highlighted the actual gulf between the two teams.
“One has to see it for what it is. There’s no comparison between the teams. In the first match, Lopez was struggling from the get go in the humidity and if Ramkumar had managed to win one of the first two sets, I believe he’d have had a 50-50 chance; some tactical mistakes cost him. By the time he won the third, it was too late.”
Results notwithstanding, Uppal made sure the younglings dissected it before giving his inputs. Hopefully, this exposure will inspire the juniors to greater heights, fingers crossed.