'Talent alone not enough'


Questions of this nature were posed to tennis coaches Capt Pavan Murthy and Ted Murray, Indian Davis Cupper Rohan Bopanna and former India top-five junior KP Balaraj during a discussion “Is tennis just another sport?” here on Saturday.

Answering a parent’s query on whether talent is ‘inborn’, Murray said while some may be born naturally talented, it was essential to work hard on those skills.

“It is no secret that some are blessed with a natural ability to hit the ball remarkably well time after time, but they have perfected the art after spending long hours in practice. Talent alone will not bring success; it has to be nurtured and groomed.”

Murray -- who has trained Leander Paes and played with and against greats like Rod Laver and Roy Emerson -- said former world No 1 John McEnroe had once called Brad Gilbert the ‘ugliest player in the world’, a fact acknowledged by the latter in his book ‘Winning Ugly’. “But Gilbert worked hard on his game as well as his mind, and eventually went on to beat McEnroe using not just strokes but brains.”

On how one chooses an academy, Balaraj said he felt the decision involved a lot of research. “Back then, most of the top-ranked juniors, including Leander, would be spotted at the Britannia-Amritraj Tennis (BAT) Academy in Chennai. It gave all of us a chance to practice and compete against the best day in and day out. To find something like that is very not easy.”

Murray said the coaching culture in India is quite different to the United States. “There, the emphasis is more on one-on-one coaching, while here, it’s more about academies where kids train in bunches. Not that the US doesn’t have academies, but once a player chooses to turn pro, individual coaching becomes more important,” added Murray.

The panelists also touched upon the crucual issue of fitness. Murray dispelled the widely held notion that the nutritional content of food in India was inferior to the West, which relies on packaged food.

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