METRO PLUS

Committed as ever

TOUCH ARTIST: Ramesh Krishnan. - Photo: P.V. Sivakumar

TOUCH ARTIST: Ramesh Krishnan. - Photo: P.V. Sivakumar  

WHEN THE highly talented teenager, Siddarth Alapati of Hyderabad, walked across to experience a rare encounter with touch artist of yesteryear, Ramesh Krishnan, the words of advice from the maestro were perhaps meant for one and all. "The best way to learn and improve your game is to play with your opponents as regularly as possible,'' the young lad was told by the non-playing Davis Cup captain of the Indian team.

By any stretch of imagination, tennis is clearly the sport of the elite where often, talented youngsters from middle-class families tend to drift from the mainstream for lack of support on many fronts. This is best illustrated by none other than Dr.Vece Paes, father of Leander Paes and former hockey Olympian, who made it explicitly clear during a seminar in the city that a minimum of Rs.45 lakhs is required per annum for a top-ranked Indian player to break into the world circuit. Mind-boggling information, which clearly portrays the grim realities for many gifted players in the country.

Yet, Ramesh Krishnan strongly believes that every effort should be made to rope in as many youngsters into the game. For if there are at least five to ten players who can make it big at the national level, that should be good enough for the nation to produce international stars. "Tennis is frightfully expensive. There is no doubt about that. And at the same time, there is no other way for the parents to look ahead. They have to plan and find their own ways to raise funds if they want their children to earn name and fame. There is no short cut for this,'' the 41-year-old gentleman explains. "Yes, it is a fact that for want of money many were forced to give up after 16 to 17 years for they miss international exposure,'' he admits.

Commenting on the structure of the domestic tournaments, Ramesh frankly says that the standard is pretty low. "Gone are the days when the top players of the country and many foreigners used to play. This was primarily responsible in sustaining the link to the last three generations - from Krishnans to Amritrajs to Paes and Bhupathi,'' he points out. "It is very sad that the domestic competition is badly downgraded,'' he adds.

The silent performer of Indian tennis, whose famed artistry -- rather when power tennis ruled the world -- is now a memorable chapter in Indian tennis history, is currently enjoying his role as non-playing captain. "I have been doing it for the last three years and enjoying it. Certainly, the pressures are off as a player. More importantly, I have very little to do, for all the Indian players are pretty aware of their targets and how to achieve them,'' confesses Ramesh Krishnan. "The pride of winning more matches in recent times gives me greater satisfaction. This was one feature which the Indian players were never used to earlier,'' he says. "Lot of credit goes to Leander Paes. I mean his Davis Cup record speaks for itself,'' he adds. Paying glowing compliments to Paes, who is some sort of legend in Davis Cup history for the stunning success rate, Ramesh Krishnan observes: "His patriotic fervour should be emulated by one and all. Paes basically believed in himself and goes through the pain to derive the pleasure of playing for the country,'' he comments.

Looking ahead on the assignments, the son of the legendary Ramanathan Krishnan says that the next Davis Cup match against Australia in September should be very tough. "In Leyton Hewitt, they have a world class player. And, they are a very competitive under any circumstances,'' he says. On the preparations of the Indians, Ramesh says that what he is basically looking is how his top players perform in the U.S.Open, which precedes the Davis Cup. "I am planning to spend a week together before the big match. I am very positive about our doubles pair producing the result and as usual hope to see Paes give us the early lead,'' says the quiet schemer.

Reflecting on his own career, Ramesh points to the epic win over Australia in 1987 which helped India reach the Davis Cup final as one of his most memorable moments. And, then inevitably the reference veers to the historic win in the Davis Cup tie against France. "Yes. We were rank outsiders and no one expected us to win even one match. But, again Leander Paes gave us that vital thrust with his yet another stunning performance. Then I must say that I should remember my victory in the decider more for its drama than for the game. No doubt, that win was one of the most memorable outings in my career,'' he recalls with justifiable pride.

Well, Ramesh Krshnan, in his role of a parent is very keen to pass on the great legacy to his daughter Gayathri Krishnan, who was incidentally given a special award for her quality display along with Sujit Sachidanand of Karnataka by the organisers of the AITA South Zone junior tournament at Hyderabad Public School (Begumpet) last week. The great player is highly appreciative of the role of the Tennis Players Parents Association (AP Chapter) in organising the two zonal events in the space of 15 days. "This is a very good beginning and they should also focus on how to ensure that genuine talent is not wasted for want of support. I wish them all good luck,'' he concludes.

V.V.SUBRAHMANYAM

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