India should be favourites against Denmark on grass courts: Vijay Amritraj
New Delhi, February 18, 2022
Veteran tennis player Vijay Amritraj feels that India has advantage playing on grass against Denmark in the Davis Cup tie slated to be played at the Delhi Gymkhana Club (DGC) here in the first week of March.
“We would have to be favourites on the grass court. I know one of them is fairly decent on grass,“ said Amritraj but added “ I don't know exactly how high ranked these boys are from Denmark, but I do believe that Holger Rune is coming."
Ramkumar Ramanathan, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Divij Sharan and Rohan Bopanna will represent India in this World Group I clash. For Denmark, world No. 97 Rune is the highest-ranked player in the team
“There are potential challenges here but around Kumar, Yuki, Nash and all, our boys have played enough against them. It’s important to go in there, get a good start and control the game. You need to get that first set in the break. You're in the driver’s seat,” Amritraj said.
“Well, first and foremost, I wish the Indian tennis world all the best. My heartfelt wish, not just to the Davis cup team, but everyone else who is striving hard to make it to the juniors and Grand Slams. I would also like to wish all luck to our boys for the tie against Denmark,” he said.
India has made it to the Davis Cup final thrice, in 1966, 1974 and 1987. But, for Vijay Amritraj, the title clash against the much-fancied Sweden at the Scandinavium in Gothenburg in 1987 holds a special place in his heart.
“Well, reaching the finals of the three Davis Cups will always have the pride of place in my house. But, the one right there on the top has to be the 1987 finals where we had lost to Sweden. The whole journey was kind of a special moment for us because we certainly weren’t the second best team in the world. Considering all the rankings and participating nations, still we were able to put together a cohesive team and train well. All the team members and managers shared a great rapport,” Amritraj recalled.
“So, we really got along well and, by the time we got to the final, it was just amazing. Talking about the 1974 campaign, needless to say, we defaulted the match in South Africa protesting apartheid for all the right reasons. I think the important aspect of it meant a lot to me because it was really more of a momentum of that default to South Africa than anything else,” said the player-turned-sports commentator.
Amritraj, who had made it to the quarter-finals at both Wimbledon (1973 and 1981) and the US Open (1973 and 1974), also talked about India’s victory against Australia at home in 1974 Davis Cup clash .
“The most important matches there were beating Australia in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in front of the vociferous home crowd during the Eastern Zone play-offs. It was a packed tennis stadium with 15,000 to 20,000 spectators in attendance. After our win over the Australians, we played a fantastic match against the Soviet Union which had Alex Metreveli in attendance.
“ I still remember that remarkable doubles victory when Anand (Amritraj) and I had combined to prevail against Alex Metreveli and Vladimir Korotkov (13‐15, 7‐5, 19‐17, 6‐3). It was special to be able to get to the final in 1974. I was just 20 that time, looking for a piece of history by winning the Davis Cup.”
To a query as to how the game has changed, or rather evolved, from his playing days of style and finesse to its current fast-paced, often physically brutal nature, he said “Well, from the game’s perspective, obviously it’s changed a lot. The court surface has changed, bolts have changed, equipment has changed and so have the players. They are much taller and physical than they ever were. It's more of a sprint today. Then it was more a marathon where we used to play singles and doubles for five sets. And then in certain grand slams also the mixed doubles. So, you ended up playing three major events.
“You have to play a lot of tournaments today at the top-class circuit over the course of the entire 52 weeks. I think you're protecting your body by just playing singles so that we can really concentrate on that alone. But, at the same time, certain things haven’t changed like how you perform when down 4-5, 30- 40 or 15-40 during the game. How do you manage to come back from that precarious situation...the mental aspect of it hasn't changed much,” he added.