Tennis With An Accent covers the global reality of tennis in various accents, and today’s accent is thoroughly Indian. Podcast host Saqib Ali, who grew up in India, talks to the venerable Indian tennis journalist Rohit Brijnath, who writes for The Straits Times in Singapore, at straitstimes.com.
Brijnath has covered the Australian Open for the past 15 years and has covered multiple Wimbledons and French Opens in earlier years. He has traveled the world many times over, giving Indian tennis fans his signature perspective on the great tennis players of various generations. He engages Saqib in a rolling, free-flowing conversation stuffed with names. It is a comfort-food show for any Indian tennis fan who remembers the 1980s.
Saqib and Rohit relive the days of the South Club in Calcutta and the Indian experience of lawn tennis. Saqib reminisces about the five-minute tennis capsules on the news at 7:05 and 8:05 p.m. Rohit recalls his days at Sports World Magazine, which preceded his current tenure at The Straits Times.
Rohit Brijnath explains the importance of Vijay Amritraj in creating a specific playing style in Indian tennis during the 1970s. Brijnath explains why, in marked contrast to Amritraj’s time, today’s tennis has “lost half of its vocabulary.”
Brijnath also explains why Davis Cup — and India’s periodic success in the tournament in separate decades — meant so much to Indian tennis and fueled the imagination of Indian tennis players and fans.
Brijnath describes how popular Boris Becker became for Indian tennis fans in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Saqib adds his observations to this particular part of an Indian tennis fan’s experience during that era of men’s tennis.
Saqib asks Rohit Brijnath about Ivan Lendl’s obsession with Wimbledon, including a 1989 moment which recalled a similar Wimbledon event 12 years later in 2001. Rohit also discusses what it means to truly “deserve to win” a championship. Which other players pursued one major tournament with such maniacal intensity? The two men discuss this question and elicit some notable answers.
John McEnroe was part of the story of tennis in the 1980s. Who is the equivalent of McEnroe today? The podcast moves into a discussion of Nick Kyrgios, in all his complexity in the age of social media. Stefanos Tsitsipas also receives some analysis as a young man trying to learn how to carry himself in the modern world of tennis. Rohit Brijnath offers some warnings to tennis commentators about the value of judging tennis players who are 20 years old.
Rohit mentions the greatest tennis match he has seen in person. Find out his answer midway through the podcast.
Which is the greatest Federer-Nadal match? Rohit answers that question as well, as he and Saqib discuss Big 3 rivalries in this era of men’s tennis.
Saqib asks Rohit Brijnath about the experience of covering tennis as a journalist, both in the 1980s and in the present moment. Brijnath recalls the names and media outlets which helped him gather information and context on the central players of the 1980s. Brijnath identifies British journalist Rex Bellamy as his favorite writer of the time. He offers other names as well — some you might have heard of, while other names might be unfamiliar.
The modern experience of tennis journalism for Rohit Brijnath is based on a respect for fans. Brijnath goes into that concept and shares other ideas on what young tennis writers should try to do. One key piece of advice concerns something other than following live matches at tennis tournaments.
Later in the podcast, Saqib and Rohit also discuss the current state of Indian tennis, which flows into a larger conversation about Indian sports. In a country of India’s size, why aren’t more top players peeling away from cricket and deciding to go into tennis? What is a key question about the infrastructure of Indian tennis development which affects how many top players are — or aren’t — being produced these days?
It’s a samosa-and-chai comfort-food tennis podcast for any Indian tennis fan. Saqib Ali and Rohit Brijnath create a conversation which elicits many emotions and fond recollections of the past.
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