A couple of weeks back, when you finished Alexander Falla in the opening round of London Olympics, you were kind enough to give an interview to Doordarshan. There has been one question that had been lingering in all our minds for a very long time – “Will we ever see you in India?” When the million dollar question, if there ever was one, was asked by the interviewer, a billion people held their breath.
As soon as the interviewer tossed up this question to you, I focused on the TV in great anticipation. Your answer gave me a world of joy. You said you would plan a vacation in India very soon. You also expressed your intention of making a visit to India as you have heard many stories about our nation which were enough to kindle your interests.
Not long ago, here in India, on 25th December 2004, tsunami waves shattered the lives of thousands of people. Many were rendered homeless and most of them had to miss their near and dear ones. Tears of dismal abyss were seen running down so as to form their own ocean. Two years from then, Unicef sent a crew to the places deserted by the tidal waves for assessing the situation of children over there and for gauging the rehabilitation happening. Not even in their wildest of imagination would the people below the poverty line over there have expected a nine-time Grand Slam singles champion accompanying the noble group sent by UNICEF.
But to their surprise, being a brand ambassador, you chose to join the group. Honestly, in India, and that too at a very rural level, it is not easy for a tennis player from a European nation to get any type of attention. Many from the tsunami-affected families might not have even known what tennis was at that time. So was the case when you first visited them. You, as humble as you were, inspite of being ranked World No. 1, felt it easier mingling with the kids belonging to those areas.
In your interview, you said you remember each one of those kids by their first name. Your statement had no exaggeration, as we could see how the children enjoyed your presence. They played cricket with you and enjoyed the way you batted. They might have got you out eventually but they also got bowled over by the way you befriended each one of them. When you left India, it was you who was everything for them. Whether you fulfill our wish of seeing you in India or not, for those kids, who by now, might have just touched their teens, your presence would have definitely given them boundless joy. They would surely love to have you join them again.
You said you are planning a vacation in India. But what we really want to see is you holding the tennis racquet in India and demolishing your opponents. Of course you can always have your cricketing skills tested when you come over here too. On behalf of Indians, if you really intend to come to India, please do not just come over here for a pleasure trip. We want to derive our own pleasures by watching you play on a tennis court. You have no idea how many fans you have in India. Given the fact that our population goes over 110 crores, even if you have 5 to 10% of people as your fans, I feel your followers in Switzerland will be much lesser, comparatively.
Sadly, there is only one tennis tournament which happens in India every year and that is during the first week of January. Incidentally, you are accustomed to playing in Doha entertaining people over there at that same time. This is my request, on behalf of millions of Indian fans: why can’t you skip Doha next year and play in India? That way, we would be privileged to see your wizardry at least once over here. I know Qatar offers lucrative prize money when you compare it with what the Indian Open has to offer. In a lighter sense, maybe because the place is famous for gold and it can easily entice your wife into spending countless hours shopping, you may still prefer playing in Doha.
Even if that was the case, you should know that there are people here in India who have golden hearts and they really love you over here. Whether they watch Sachin Tendulkar bat or not, they never fail to see you producing some magical artistry on the tennis court. India, the land of cricket, has not produced many exceptional tennis players of international class, with due respect to Krishnans (father and son) and Vijay Amritraj. Thus we have had to rely on watching other countries’ players like Connors, Borg, Mcenroe, Lendl, Becker, Edberg and Sampras producing amazing tennis in their respective eras. But all those international players we were able to see only on television up until 1999, when the first ATP tournament in the name of Gold Flake open was started in Chennai.
As a result, we have seen top players like the Beckers, the Moyas and even the Nadals here in India performing live. Maybe in near future, a few more top players will come and play in Chennai. But if we do not see you playing live in India before your retirement, whatever tennis we would have watched by then would be incomplete. That is because you are the most complete player to have ever stepped on a court with a tennis racquet and seeing the rest of players of ATP is like viewing the game in bits and pieces. But if we watch your game, it is like having watched the entire game as a whole.
In fact, most of the Facebook pages created in your name are the handwork of Indians. I do not know which other sportsman has so many dedicated pages on social networking sites. Even during your debacles we were with you, believing in your impeccable skills, and we have watched you winning as much as 16 Grand Slam titles prior to Wimbledon a month before.
Now you are back again to where you belong. You are the numero uno player in the ATP rankings again, having added 8 more titles to what you had when you first visited India. We would love to have a title added from India to the ones you are already holding. You do not know how much happiness you would be giving us if you came to India and contested in the Chennai Open. Through this letter I appeal earnestly for your presence here in India, on behalf of all tennis fans. Give us a chance to be elated, Roger.