India has not produced any singles player of note since the days of Vijay Amritraj and Ramesh Krishnan, but former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli is confident that the country is on the right path and will start doing well in the near future.
Bartoli was in the capital to launch the second edition of Rendez-vous Roland Garros, a tournament for Indian boys and girls to earn a wild card for the junior French Open. The tournament will feature the top U-18 Indian players (16 boys and 16 girls).
The winners of the Indian leg will go on to face competitors from Brazil, Japan, South Korea and China in the play-offs in Paris and the eventual champions will get a wild card entry to the French Open Junior.
Bartoli also inaugurated two new clay courts at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) here as part of the efforts by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) to improve the standards of grassroots tennis in India.
“It’s good to have these courts to understand the surface and technique. India is on the right path, you need to have patience. Everything has to be in place and the Indian federation is doing a good job,” Bartoli told the media here on Monday.
“Events like this can help to improve Indian tennis. It will give Indian kids an opportunity to see the trophy and get inspired to play in the French Open and win this trophy one day. In India, a large number of kids are seeing this incredible trophy.
“For us it used to be a dream to lift this trophy. We never had the chance to even see this trophy when we were young. For us, it was very very special. In our time, it never used to travel across France, forget about travelling abroad. It is important for young players to realise what it means to travel to Roland Garros and play in the French Open,” she added.
Indian singles players have struggled to enter the top 100 in the singles rankings in recent years. Delhi lad Yuki Bhambri is currently the top ranked Indian in men’s singles at 100 while Somdev Devvarman is at the 178th spot. Bartoli however, asserted that it is only a matter of time before Indians start doing well in singles events.
“Well, give him (Yuki) a chance. He is doing well. He is within the top 200 in the singles rankings. I think he is improving massively and India is moving in the right direction,’ the 31-year-old said.
“It is very difficult to do well in singles because it is very, very competitive. India is doing everything to move in the right direction,” she added.
The former world no. 7 also felt that Serbian star Novak Djokovic has the ability to break Swiss legend Roger Federer’s record of winning the highest number of Grand Slam titles. Federer has won 17 Grand Slams — the last of which came at Wimbledon in 2012.
“I think he can. I think a few years ago no one felt that Djokovic can win 17 Grand Slams. But the level at which he is playing is so incredible. I think he will definitely have a chance,” Bartoli said.