Vijay Amritraj on Tuesday during the inauguration of the NEXT STEP 2014, an international initiative to use sports to reach out to the under-privileged children, here said: “Twenty years ago, if someone had told me that India would have an Olympic gold medallist in shooting, a World champion in chess, a top-five player in women’s badminton, I would have, seriously, had a laugh. From my playing days, the country’s sportspersons have come a long way. But we still have a longer way to go.”

Optimistic

Amritraj, clearly the best-known ambassador for the country’s tennis since the 1970s, is optimistic about the present Davis Cup team but not without a worry.

“We have a good Davis Cup team now. This team can be developed well for the next decade. We’ve got good guys at the top and some youngsters coming along. But we got to keep on pressing the importance of being in the top-100 or 150 in the singles.

“If that doesn’t happen, the four singles we have (in a Davis Cup tie) are going to go away. We never will be able to make it to the World Group. Our goal should be to make the World Group.”

Ask Amritraj about how the world looks at the doubles in tennis and he is as diplomatic as ever.

“The Tournament Directors of various tournaments don’t want to have doubles, because it doesn’t help them. You will continue to find sparsely-filled stands for doubles finals because you are not getting marquee players to play doubles. After all, the marquee players “sell” the tickets, they get the crowds in. And they don’t play doubles. So that’s the response you are going to get.”

Focus on doubles

Commenting on the trend of more and more Indians concentrating on doubles, Amritraj said: “First of all, if you are not good in singles, you go and play doubles. Simple. Doubles gives you another pay-cheque.

“Guys who play singles, usually don’t play doubles. Even if they do play doubles, it is only for practice for singles. The prize-money breakdown is 80-20. 80 per cent for singles and 20 for doubles. So there is no reason for anyone to play doubles if you are good enough to play singles.”

He continued, “There is no reason not to play both, you know, especially at a young age because it develops you as a player. It does expose you to more physical stress. The top players don’t have to do it. They don’t care. So it lengthens their careers. They have no reason to play both.”

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