Mumbai: Apr 21, 2013
As a child, Sachin Tendulkar emulated John McEnroe. Like McEnroe, he had sported long, curly locks and wore a hair band. Tendulkar is an avid tennis watcher and has been a guest at the Wimbledon Royal Box on quite a few occasions and his tete-a-tete with Roger Federer delighted the sports aficionados.
Indian tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi eulogises Tendulkar for his consistency and passion. “He has driven the nation to ecstasy and agony, got them to laugh and cry, celebrate and mourn. There are many reasons for this: not only he is the best at what he does and has been so for well over two decades, but also for the way he carries himself off the pitch and represents our nation in forums across the world,” said 38-year-old Bhupathi in a chat with Outlook magazine.
Talking about Tendulkar’s impact on India as a nation, Bhupati said: “All of 1.2-plus billion Indians crave to meet with Sachin in some capacity. For some he is their ultimate hero and icon, and for others he is the saviour who has helped them smile every time he has stepped on to the cricket field. He has been deified in India and in the ever-growing Indian diaspora and it is understandable why.”
Bhupathi has had privilege of meeting with Tendulkar on many occasions over last two decades. The two have even played tennis together. “To start off, I have played tennis with Sachin… and he has a mean forehand! I have met him multiple times at Wimbledon, where he comes to watch, in particular Roger Federer play. In fact, he has been a feature of the Wimbledon Royal Box for the past few years and we have started to expect him at the Big W,” said Bhupathi.
Sport has its trials and tribulations. Bhupati is amazed by Tendulkar’s level of consistency over such long periods. “What makes Sachin extra special is the level of pressure he has played with for over two decades. It is inhuman on occasions and as a high-performance sportsperson I have often wondered how he has been able to perform with such consistency day in and day out for the period he has,” said Bhupati, who has four mixed doubles and 12 doubles Grand Slam titles.
Bhupathi is amazed by the Little Master’s modesty. “I can safely say that the only other superstar I have interacted with who is as humble as Sachin is Roger [Federer]. That should sum it up in a nutshell. Here I am talking about the two greatest sports icons of our generation, men who have turned themselves immortal by the sheer scale of their achievements. And despite the magnitude of their achievements, they remain humble and modest, a real lesson for every aspiring sportsperson from across the world.”
“As Sachin reaches the home stretch of his career, no one wishes it more than me that he finishes with a bang. For performers, it is the most difficult of calls to give it all up one day, for sport has occupied the centrestage of our lives for the greater part of our existence. To think of the period post-retirement causes a strange sensation and that’s when you realise what life will be without the passion that has nurtured you for 25 long years. That is also what propels you to try and finish off on a real high, to leave your final imprint on the sport you love so much. In Sachin’s case, after giving us all so much to cherish for over 24 years, he deserves nothing less,” said Bhupathi.