If there was one happy man after the recent controversy involving the selection of the Indian tennis team for the London Olympics, it would have to be Vishnu Vardhan.
The 24-year-old rookie consequently got the opportunity to partner five-time Olympian and the country’s top-ranked player Leander Paes in the men’s doubles event that begins this weekend at Wimbledon’s hallowed turf after both Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refused to do so, claiming they were a pair themselves. Consequently, the All-India Tennis Association paired up Bhupathi-Bopanna as the second men’s doubles pair for the London Games while Paes and Vishnu were named as Team No 1.
Learning from Lee
Not one to be bogged down by the pressure of expectation, Vishnu is now keen to make the most of his Olympic debut and for that, he has been spending maximum time with his senior partner.
“Leander got me to Wimbledon to be by his side, and watching him reach the mixed doubles final was very exciting. Overall, being at the Mecca of tennis — Wimbledon — itself was an exhilarating experience for me. Thereafter, I’ve come to the US, where I’m training with Leander’s coach Rick Leach,” Vishnu told MiD DAY from Los Angeles yesterday. Training with former World No 1 doubles ace, Leach has given Vishnu immense confidence ahead of one of his most important sporting endeavours till date — the Olympics. “Though Leander has been busy playing around the US in the last week or so, he’s been following my progress on a daily basis and has been in touch with myself and Rick. He is very focussed about the Games and so am I.
“It’s going to be a very tough field in London with even the singles players participating in the doubles event. But our aim is to have a podium finish at the Games and to return home with a medal.
“We will take one match at a time and I promise to give it everything I’ve got,” said Vishnu, who won silver in the mixed doubles with Sania Mirza at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games.
Big-serving Vishnu is all praise for his new mentor, Leach. “
Rick is among the world’s best when it comes to doubles and I’m privileged to simply share the court with him.
“Lee and Rick have worked out a plan for me and I have been working on those lines. Training with Rick has got me to be a lot more sharper on court.
High quality training
“We train in short bursts but it’s high quality nevertheless. We’ve been working on my serve, volley and most importantly, the return of serve.
“Basically, Rick wants me to be fresh, both mentally as well as physically, for the Olympics,” explained Vishnu.
Besides Leach, Vishnu has another training partner in
former national champion and Davis Cupper Sunil Kumar Sipaeya.
“Sunil is training in the US and was kind enough to spend some time with me. Sunil has partnered Leander in the Davis Cup, so his inputs are invaluable. The best part of our training sessions is that we work hard through the morning and then hit the Laguna Beach nearby to unwind. It’s great fun,” Vishnu signed off.