The Davis Cup business done and dusted, the focus was back on the players’ individual goals and the health of Indian tennis. Yuki Bhambri gave voice to the concerns of players about lack of enough support for them from the All India Tennis Association.
Saying that players had come up despite little support from the system, Bhambri lamented the fact that India had not hosted many Challenger events ahead of ATP events in the last few years. “At the moment, we have 4-5 good singles players including me…Ram (Ramkumar Ramanathan) and Saketh (Myneni) all of the same standard. So, what we need is support so that we can improve further.
“A few years back, we had three Challenger events in the country and Indian players reached the finals of all three. Saketh played one final, I won one and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan played the final of the other. So, the Indian players have done well whenever we have hosted Challengers. We need to have more,” said Bhambri.
“China hosts 7 and Korea has 5-6. That’s why we see so many Chinese players doing well.”
Anand Amritraj, who completed his tenure as India Davis Cup captain with this tie, said the United States had 32 Challenger events in the 80s and now they have only eight. “That’s the reason American players are not doing so well, although they have four players in the top 30-50,” he said.
Asked what the AITA could do to identify the next generation of players, Amritraj said players need better coaching at a young age. “If you see our players in the 14, 16 and 18 age group, they are great when they are 14, but by 20 they are way behind. We need to send them to world-class academies like the Sanchez-Casal in the US and Spain, where Ramkumar went recently, or the Bollettieri academy where Yuki trained. We need to have enough Challenger-level events for them; hosting Futures is not enough,” he added.
About his stint as Davis Cup captain, which ended on Sunday, Amritraj said, “It was a great experience, wonderful three-and-a-half years. To have these guys (Ramkumar and Yuki) here and Somdev (Devvarman) for the first two years, Leander and Saketh, it was wonderful. I am happy to end it by winning this rubber,” Amritraj added.
“In the eight ties that I captained, we won five and lost three, and those were against Serbia, Czech Republic and Spain in World Group Playoffs. They are all world-class teams and the matches were difficult, I thought we had a chance against the Czech but we lost 2-3. Against Spain, we didn’t have any chance,” he said.
About the tie against New Zealand, Amritraj said he had expected to win only three singles but ended up winning four, so he was happy with the way things turned out.