One of India’s greatest tennis players, Jaidip Mukerjea says it’s sad to see that tennis’ serve and volley style is dying despite the fact that many championships including the prestigious Wimbledon are played on grass courts.
The reason for the disappearance of the ‘touch’, the 79-year-old Mukerjea said, lies perhaps in the fact that most of the tournaments nowadays are played on hard and clay courts and players these days mostly prefer to play from the baseline.
Mukerjea, who reached the fourth round at the Wimbledon four times (1963, 1964, 1966, 1973) cited the example of Indian hockey that lost its glory days when the game was shifted to the synthetic turf in the 1970s. “When hockey used to be played on grass, we were the boss. Now what we see is that the matches are being played on artificial turf. How many artificial turfs does India have, very few?. Like Hockey, the art of tennis is also going the same way. Tennis is becoming more expensive on any surface. Maintaining a grass court is quite difficult.”
When informed that one of the grass courts in Delhi has been converted to a hard surface, he said, “I think the worst thing is that the grass court is converted into a hard court. It will not serve Indian tennis. We don’t get our players. All are very talented but they are not physically strong enough to play on clay or hard. Playing on a slow clay court makes your legs very strong. All the Europeans in their initial days used to play on clay courts. Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic all are playing on clay and that makes them stronger.”
“Everybody is saying that my record in Wimbledon is great, but I reckon that my record in French Open (fourth round in 1965, 66) is a rare feat then Wimbledon. Only two Indian players have done it. Ramanathan Krishnan and myself. No Vijay Amritraj, no Ramesh Krishnan, No one, because others were not so physically strong,” said the former India Davis Cup captain.
“Everyone is hitting the ball a hundred miles now. Rackets are different nowadays. Slow court hard court does not matter. I have seen here most of the guys playing back of the court. So you don’t see serve and volley so much. Everyone wants to play from the baseline, so it is obvious that the art of tennis will disappear,” he signed off.