Mumbai: Former Indian tennis star Vijay Amritraj says Sania Mirza should not have quit playing singles so early in her career. Sania switched to doubles in 2013 after undergoing three surgeries due to various injuries she suffered.
"I think she had one good year of singles and I would really personally have liked her to continue play singles. She was not only talented but she also had the aggressive attitude. You have a couple of bad years here and there, you do have injuries. I like people to play singles and that is where your excellence shows," he told reporters here at the launch of his Champions Tennis League (CTL).
Sania recently won the gold medal in mixed doubles and bronze medal in the women's doubles in the Asian Games. "Doubles is fantastic but people when they start the game they don't start doubles, they want to excel in singles. I would have loved to see Sania to do it. But I think she has brought an incredible amount of inspiration to sports lovers in the country not just tennis also sports and not just women but everyone," he added.
Asked why not many singles players are coming up in India, the 60-year old said the game has become very physical and Indians are not built that way. "I think the bottom line is that it is physical. The game has got physical today and if you look at the guys coming in the CTL they are all huge and big hitters of the game. The days of the Michael Chang are over, they can be a wonderful coach.
"What has been extremely impressive has been Kei Nishikori's performance and what he has done with the size he is. It needs even more work, even more commitment, and try to develop the kind of physicality that tennis needs today."
He was happy with the Indian tennis contingents performance in the Asian Games, saying, "Honestly, I always felt that we are the best in Asia if you leave out the Japanese. We did well, we beat the Chinese Taipei and Korea in Davis Cup and that was a good start. The Asian Games was very good for us, that is something our boys and girls need to play especially the ones coming up. It would be really a good challenge for them to do it."
He also felt India had a good shot at the Olympics in 2016 in the doubles category. "In doubles we always have a good chance. Getting an entry into the Olympics Games is based on representation more than just ranking. So it is not like Wimbledon where everybody gets in based on their ranking. So at the Olympics you are likely to get a few easy matches to get into the semi-finals or quarter-finals and then you play a couple of good matches and end up with a medal.
"It is absolutely possible for India to win a medal because Leander (Paes) plays good doubles, Rohan Bopanna plays good doubles and even Saketh (Myneni) plays good," he said.
Champions Tennis League has six franchises and Amritraj said they would like to add at least two more franchises in future. "Ideally, I would like to have eight teams. I think that would be a nice optimum number to have because you have four in one group and four in the other and eight cities will get to see it. There are some who are interested, I think Ahmedabad or Kolkata or Jaipur or Hyderabad could be a choice," he said.
Asked why they settled for the mini format of matches, comprising of just one set, with no advantage points and tie-breakers at 5-5, Amritraj said it was done to keep the viewers' interest alive.
"It would have been too long and also television has to be curtailed. We are going to carry this in the other parts of the world so we are going to give them an opportunity to carry a two-and-half hour window of these matches. That is why we also took out the tie-breaker at 5-5 and the no ad games," he said.
"This is a fairly similar format to what I played in the 1970s. I used to play the similar format in the US a lot and it did amazingly well with full houses, with around 15000 people," he added.