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Davis Cup: Indian tennis players lack the ‘legs’ to succeed against Spain

Tennis, in the long run, is a sport won by the player with the better legs. The limbs that carry our tennis hopes can hardly sprout anything more than limited aspirations

tennis Updated: Sep 16, 2016 10:20 IST
Sukhwant Basra
Rafael Nadal

Saketh Myneni during a practice session of Davis Cup at Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA).(Arun Sharma/HT PHOTO)

It’s time for another Davis Cup tie and it’s time for your correspondent to talk of a topic that he has long gotten tired of.

Tennis, eventually, isn’t about how deftly you hit the ball; it’s not even just how hard you manage that. Rather it’s about how long you can play at the top of your game. Tennis, in the long run, is a sport that is won by the player with the better legs, all else pales away.

READ: Davis Cup: Ramkumar takes on Nadal, Myneni faces Ferrer in opening singles

Let me explain. Tennis demands constant positioning at just the right place behind the ball to unleash the biomechanical forces that produce those solid strokes. It’s a gruelling sport that rewards the one who is fleet-footed enough to consistently get to the ball. It heaps wins on those who can do this hours on end.

TRANSFER OF MOMENTUM

A step slower means the body is just not coiled right to transfer momentum into the stroke right; it’s just not in the perfect place to tap those years of muscle memory which sees the brain execute set neural patterns through an easy explosion of sinew and muscle.

One has not tired of watching tennis legs. Heck, even my wife is a fresh convert and has been drooling over Rafael Nadal’s of late.

But one has tired of pointing out time and again that this is where Indian players falter. The limbs that carry our tennis hopes are seldom strong enough to sprout anything more than limited aspirations. This is also one of the reasons the majority of our players play doubles. Half the court is far easier to cover than the full one, right? The success of our doubles proponents shows that when it comes to hands, Indian players are right there on top. They can make the ball dance; provided they can reach it.

Rafael Nadal perhaps would be the last person to give up chasing a ball on a tennis court. The first two pictures show he has the limbs to go with the perseverance. The third and fourth pictures, of India’s Saketh Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan’s legs (right), tell their own story. (HT Photo)

Now, Ramkumar Ramanathan will surely play his heart out against Rafael Nadal on Friday. Firstly, he is the underdog and therefore should have little pressure to bridle him. Then, he is playing at home in front of his own crowd. The latter bit being a boost actually remains to be seen as given the number of people turning up to cheer for Nadal even when he is practicing, one is not sure of just which way the fans will applaud.

LACKING THE LIMBS

But to wear down a player of Nadal’s sheer physical ability would need Ramkumar to play out of his skin for the distance of five sets. This writer is not convinced he has the limbs to manage it. It’s up to Ramkumar to shock and shut us up and in the process give us a hero.

But he is yet to show the kind of big-match temperament that allows for even the hope of a set, what to talk of a match.Saketh Myneni has already done the spectacular this tie. He becomes the first Indian player to propose to his girlfriend during an official Davis Cup dinner. He is probably the first in the world but that fact could not be crosschecked. In fact, it was not just a surprise to Srilakshmi, but also to his parents back home and the entire team.

READ: Davis Cup: ‘Team man’ Saketh Myneni stands out in an individual sport

Just like his clarity about who he would like to spend his life with even as early as at the age of 28, Myneni is quite a sorted fellow even on the tennis court. He is solid off both flanks and has a huge serve to back that up. He won’t roll over and just quail in the face of David Ferrer’s vehemence. Myneni promises a better fight, a gritty show. But then he cramped in the last two five sets he has played — the one during the tie against Korea and then the first-round of the US Open. That frailty dims the spark of confidence that his recent fiery form excites.

Watch this Davis Cup tie for two solid reasons: To guage our best against the world’s best. And to see the best in the world execute their craft that has taken more than a decade for them to craft. Just don’t tune in out of jingoistic aspirations of an Indian victory.

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