The sight of Vijayant Malik retiring midway through the second rubber of the Davis Cup tie against Korea in excruciating pain and the country’s No. 1 Yuki Bhambri occupying a seat among the spectators at the R.K. Khanna Tennis Stadium here on Friday was so symbolic of the deep crisis Indian tennis is experiencing.
Several past and present players think that country comes first. The ‘rebels’, consisting of some of the top professionals, however, insist that they are fighting for a cause.
In the backdrop of the lack of faith and communication between players and the administration, India, a three-time finalist in the Davis Cup, struggled to save the blushes against the Koreans on day one of its home tie, as V.M. Ranjeet managed to win just two games in the first rubber.
Yet, Ranjeet, ranked 511 in the world, tried to put up a brave front. “I played a decent match, but he (Cho) played extraordinary.”
“In the beginning I had a few unforced errors. I started feeling better as the game progressed. But the score line does not say that. I was trying to play my best tennis and he was just better than me today,” said Ranjeet about his unranked opponent.
Ranjeet, making his Davis Cup debut, said he could not match his experienced rival on the slow court, which suited the Korean better. “He was able to play good shots and come up with good passes… He was in the groove. When I tried different shots, he was there.”
“Leander came up to me and said ‘You played a good match, it is just that he was way better. That’s exactly what the captain (S.P. Misra) said.’’ Ranjeet was determined to iron out the flaws in his game and put up a better performance in his reverse singles match after two days.
While Ranjeet will try to give his best on Sunday, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) executive body will meet to finalise a committee to address the issue of players’ boycott.
We want to play
Bhambri, one of the ‘rebels’, said it “hurt” to see India lose two matches to Korea in such a fashion. “It always hurts. We always want to play the Davis Cup.” The 20-year-old, currently ranked 241, said the problem could have been sorted out earlier. “Whatever they have said (about our demands), they could have given on a piece of paper and we would have made ourselves available.”
“Hopefully, they (AITA) will agree to our demands. As soon as it happens, we will play for India,” said Bhambri with a note of optimism.