But he should have felt inferior. He didn’t have Tendulkar’s concentrated technique nor Anand’s fertile mind. They were extraordinary players, Leander wasn’t. Average height. Average game, for volley aside, which was akin to a Marvin Hagler jab, his technique arrived from a defective tennis factory.
But he was fast, twitching on court as if an invisible God was electrocuting him. And he owned this inner voice, which we couldn’t hear but whose primeval desire we could see in his play, a voice that convinced him he was a sort of tennis Rocky from a Calcutta bylane. But only when he played for India.
He was naturally competitive and we’d play table tennis, carom, golf and he wouldn’t give a bloody inch. It didn’t show enough on tour, but put him in a Davis Cup, an Asian Games, and his tap of adrenalin opened. It wasn’t simply patriotism, it was an answering to the theatrical hero within, he was a Las Vegas entertainer in search of a crowd. Give him one, he’ll give you a show.
So there we are, the Atlanta Olympics. He’s 23. Never won a round in a Grand Slam singles event. Ranked No. 126 or thereabouts. I’m not even watching him. But, at different venues, the hockey, the athletics, news leaks in from the tennis centre. The kid won again. He beats Richey Reneberg, world No. 20, beats Nicolas Pereira, world No. 74, beats Thomas Enqvist, world No. 10. We know he thinks rankings are only to be disrespected, but this is ridiculous
Thank you for the remote control car last year, even though it broke the day after. I know you tried, and that’s what counts. -Alex, 8
Mommy and Daddy say I have not been very good these past few days. How bad can I be before I lose my presents? -Christian, 7