It has been less than a month since Anand Amritraj was appointed captain of the Indian Davis Cup team. In welcome relief, congratulatory messages have poured in from the very same players who were the forefront of a face-off with the All India Tennis Association.
In this exclusive chat with The Hindu, the former India player spoke on his new role, expectations and targets.
Were you expecting the appointment?
After S.P. Misra, the previous captain, left, I knew I was in line for it.
I knew that the boys, Somdev (Devvarman), Rohan (Bopanna) and the others wanted me.
It was just a question of everybody coming to terms with it, and the AITA agreeing. But I wasn’t sure till it happened.
Last year we didn’t have a great Olympics, and there were the player protests. The Indian Tennis Players Association (ITPA) was then formed. How do you see things unfolding from now on?
It’s going to be smooth sailing. The players have got pretty much what they wanted. The AITA is, I think, happy with the decision.
This coming year will see peace and harmony in the side, and I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t.
What will your role be? Along with the non-playing captain duties, will you also be looking at selection and player development?
I am hoping (to have a say) in the selection. We should field the best team we can. There should be no other criteria other than ranking and form.
Whoever plays well, and whoever is in form is going to be picked.
Regarding player development, I really enjoy doing it, whether I am in Chennai or at the Southern California Tennis Association.
Are you looking at pool of players from where you can select?
Somdev has been great. It’s amazing how far he has got in so little time — from 600-odd to the top-100 in nine months.
After him, we have Yuki (Bhambri), Sanam (Singh), Dhivij (Saran) and Saketh (Myneni), among others.
But they haven’t had a big breakthrough year. We need people for the second singles. You can’t rely on Somdev to win every time. It’s too much pressure.
Rohan (Bopanna) has had an amazing year in doubles. But we have always had great doubles players.
That’s not my main concern. Singles is.
Traditionally India’s strength has been grass. But with the younger crop more tuned to the hard courts, do you see that trend continuing?
It’s going to stay that way. When I played, our best surface (grass) was the opponent’s worst. It was an easy decision, but not now.
Somdev’s best will also be his opponent’s best surface. So it’s a fine line.
But Somdev is good on hard courts, and we have to go along with what’s best for our best player.
You are based in the United States and come to India four times a year. So how frequent will your interactions be with the players and will you travel more?
Not really. A lot of tournaments happen in the US and England.
I am always at the Wimbledon and the US Open. I am also planning to go to a lot of Challenger events where these players are going to be at.
I’ll have a lot more chances to see them there than by sitting here.
Your brief is till the end of 2014. What is your target?
The goal is to get into the World Group. Players need to stay healthy, and be able to play through the year. I think it’s definitely doable.
We need the second singles guy to make the jump. The sooner that happens the sooner we will get in.