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‘Less skill involved now’

ASHWIN ACHAL
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CHAT Vijay Amritraj says today’s players are more one-dimensional in style

When Vijay Amritraj uses the rather polished catchphrase, ‘Oh, I say!’ on match commentary it does not feel like an act. The man is dignified, dapper and has an authentic ‘old-school’ feel about him. So, a conversation with this ace player, who is in the country on a personal visit, naturally veers towards players today. “They are tremendous athletes, but the way they play is a lot more one-dimensional than our style. There is less skill involved now. When (John) McEnroe played (Bjorn) Bjorg, it was a delight to watch. They used all corners of the court. This is how all matches played out — find the angles here, a drop shot there, some serve and volley, and now how it is time to lob one over the guy’s head... People often ask me if I’m upset that I could not play in this age. And my answer is, ‘Absolutely not! I much prefer my time’.”

Amritraj, who holds the distinction of being the highest-ranked singles player in the history of Indian tennis, now works in varied fields. “I am involved with a lot of television and films in the U.S. as well as charity ventures. I enjoy television work. My show Dimensions (a talk-show on CNN-IBN) is doing well.” His brother, Ashok, is a successful Hollywood movie producer, and Vijay has tried his hand in that business as well. He played the ship captain in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) and recalls the experience. “I would have actually done a bigger role, but the shooting was to take place during Queens I remember having a huge debate with my agent. I wanted to do the movie, and he said, ‘You can act in movies whenever you want, but you will never be able to play the game at this level’. He told me to go play Queens, and that’s what I did. I think I beat Yannick Noah (a top player at the time) that year at Wimbledon. So I guess it worked out pretty well!”

Another honour...

The stalwart was recently nominated for the prestigious Dhyan Chand Award. A lifetime achievement award often denotes the end of productive work for the recipient, but Amritraj is far from done. “I don’t look at it as just a pat on the back. I look at it as an impetus to achieve more for the country. I played on the Tour for 25 years, I played the Davis Cup for 20 years, I was in the top 10, and I beat all the guys I needed to beat in my generation. That was one segment, and then I move on... I began thinking about how I could become the best broadcaster in the world. That’s something I put a lot of thought into. Then, it was time to focus on my charity. My foundation now supports 19 charities. It’s just different stages in life, and I want to do more.”

ASHWIN ACHAL

When (John) McEnroe played (Bjorn) Bjorg, it was a delight to watch. They used all corners of the court

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