Thursday, December 31, 2015

Agassi, Sampras on Ramesh Krishnan and Paes

November’s Thanksgiving holidays gave me an opportunity to read autobiographies of two great tennis players; I followed very closely in the 90s; Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. Among players of that generation, I was a huge fan of Sampras and was so-so about Agassi. However, I’d rate Agassi’s autobiography Open among the best books I have read. It is certainly the best autobiography I have ever read. Reading both the books back to back in a space of week allowed one to contrast the same event as viewed by two different people. I’ll post a couple of anecdotes about this book that I liked across two posts. The first one is regarding the experience of both Agassi and Sampras with a tennis player from my hometown. Madras has been a decent enough factory for tennis players (Amritraj brothers, Ramanathan & Ramesh Krishnan and to a some extent Leander Paes) – of which Ramesh Krishnan was a personal favorite (although my father constantly criticized him whenever we watched him play).
Agassi’s mention of Ramesh Krishnan of was heartening to read – “MY FIRST TOURNAMENT as a pro is in Schenectady, New York. I reach the final of the $ 100,000 tournament, then lose to Ramesh Krishnan, 6– 2, 6– 3. I don’t feel bad, however. Krishnan is great, better than his ranking of forty-something, and I’m an unknown teenager, playing in the final of a fairly important tournament. It’s that ultimate rarity— a painless loss. I feel nothing but pride. In fact, I feel a trace of hope, because I know I could have played better, and I know Krishnan knows.”
Interestingly, Sampras made a decision to turn pro after beating Ramesh Krishnan “At Indian Wells, I beat Eliot Teltscher and Ramesh Krishnan, who were top-twenty players. Things were really starting to click, and people were taking notice. Tournaments began offering me wild cards…..The die had been cast, and now it was just a matter of exactly when I would turn pro. We decided to make the leap right then, after I beat Krishnan, even though it meant setting up a whole new lifestyle for me. Who would travel with me? What contracts would I sign? Where would I play next—“
It was hilarious to read Agassi’s description of Paes and the comparison to Brad Gilbert during their encounter at Atlanta Olympics “In the semis I meet Leander Paes, from India. He’s a flying jumping bean, a bundle of hyperkinetic energy, with the tour’s quickest hands. Still, he’s never learned to hit a tennis ball. He hits off-speed, hacks, chips, lobs— he’s the Brad of Bombay. Then, behind all his junk, he flies to the net and covers so well that it all seems to work. After an hour you feel as if he hasn’t hit one ball cleanly— and yet he’s beating you soundly. Because I’m prepared, I stay patient, stay calm, and beat Paes 7– 6, 6– 3.”