After the one-hour-long practice session with the 30-odd trainees of the Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association, 58-year-old Spanish coach Antonio Martinez called the attendants and asked for more ball and some court side equipment to show the trainees serve and drop shots. The coaching session had already exceeded the planned 30 minutes coaching camp but Martinez, who was the personal coach of former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero for more than 22 years, wanted to spend more time. “Hard work,” said Martinez in English as he called the interpreter to share more inputs with the trainees.
And the coach with more than 40 years of coaching experience was all praise for Indian youngsters Sumit Nagal and Ramkumar Ramanathan for the courage shown in last week’s Davis Cup tie in New Delhi. “Indian youngsters are very good and I liked the spirit shown by youngsters like Sumit Nagal and Ramkumar against our much fancied players, who are ranked a lot higher than in ATP rankings. They have great technique and talent but they need to work 100 per cent more and play more at the professional circuit under professional coaches. Leander Paes is an amazing player and the fact that he is playing at the age of 43 is tremendous. India needs to have more tennis clubs and professional coaches for the young players,” said Martinez, who also has been the personal coach of players like David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro, Guillermo Garcia and James Ward in the past.
For a country, whose 11 players are in ATP top 100 rankings in the world, Spain has seen the rise of players like Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and now the doubles specialist Mark Lopez, who won the gold medal along with Nadal in men’s doubles in Rio Olympics. Having worked with Juan Carlos Ferrero for more than two decades, Martinez has seen the Spanish clay court specialist from close at Valencia and Madrid, the two cities which see the presence of more than 600 tennis clubs.
“For a player like Nadal or Ferrer, it is their work ethics and training in pressure situations which have made them excel. In Spain, selection for such talents happens at the age of 16-17 and players like Nadal and Ferrer trained for professional circuit when they were 16-17 years old. David Ferrer’s trainer is a friend of mine and he used to make Ferrer run for 450 M and tell him that it is 400 M. That’s the kind of training they do at young age. Same goes with a player like Juan Carlos Ferrero, who was number one in ATP Rankings in 2003. At 16, he used to ask me, ‘Will I become a professional player,’ and I would tell him hard work is the answer,” said the coach.
Martinez along with Miguel Diaz, the newly elected president of Spanish Royal National Tennis Association, saw the Spanish team excel over India last week and the coach believes that it’s hard work and training which makes Spanish players excel. “The main reason for Spain players’ success is sacrifice. They do hard work when they are on court and off court too in practice and it is a very satisfying as a coach. It’s the spirit and work understanding and ethics which make them excel. Last week, too, conditions were humid in Delhi but the players showed their fitness. The weather was a handicap for them but their training was the cure. And that’s why we have 11 players in the top 100 ATP rankings. And it’s always good to have your top players playing in Davis Cup. As I travelled today, I understood that distance between Delhi and Chandigarh is almost the same as Madrid and Valencia. And we have more than 500 clubs in that area. And that’s the reason more and more players like the current batch would come from Spain,” said Martinez.
‘Happy to associate with Chandigarh’
Chandigarh: With Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association having a memorandum of understanding with Madrid Tennis Foundation, Spain, ongoing from April this year for the next three years, it was time for Miguel Diaz, the newly elected president of Spanish Royal National Tennis Association, to visit CLTA stadium on Monday. The president along with renowned coach Antonio Martinez praised the association between CLTA’s Chart programme and the Madrid Tennis Foundation. “We are happy that we have this association with Chandigarh in India and we appreciate their work done for the rural students under the Chart programme. We send coaches here and the players visit us during Madrid Open and we are ready to help Indian tennis in whatever way we can,” said Diaz, who was accompanied by CLTA patron-in-chief Rajan Kashyap.