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Prakash Amritraj making his own identity

August 06, 2008 17:18 IST

The Amritraj name precedes wherever he's gone, whatever he's achieved. But 24-year-old Prakash Amritraj is slowly, but positively, making his own identity in the tennis world.

It's been an eventful year for Prakash, though not for all the right reasons. His tiff with Davis Cup captain Leander Paes notwithstanding, the US-bred player had a few inspiring moments this season.

After helping India progress in the Asia-Oceania zone by winning the deciding rubber against Uzbekistan, Prakash scripted a remarkable triumph against Japan's Go Soeda with the team on the verge of disintegration. He stood up to the challenge, battled back from a two sets deficit and a couple of match-points down in the final set to take victory and give India a decisive 2-0 lead on the hot and draining first day.

He then struck form at the Newport ATP, going all the way to the final before Fabrice Santoro's foxed him in straight sets.

"All three are matches I will definitely remember," Prakash told from New Delhi, where he is playing the US $50,000 Challenger event. "But the highlight was the Davis Cup -- especially coming back from two sets down and match points against Japan on good soil was magic."

"The biggest thing I will take from reaching the final at Newport is that when I'm healthy I can compete with the best players. I had my chances in that game against even a player like Santoro."

Prakash was coming back after a wrist surgery at the beginning of the year and felt the effects for almost half the season.

Prakash Amritraj"It was only around Wimbledon that I started feeling 100 per cent," he explains. "It was my first surgery so I wasn't quite sure how it was going to react.

"The injuries have been unfortunate. But I'm a very positive person. Right now I'm looking at playing a full 12 months to get higher in the rankings. I have no points to defend till almost middle of next year. The initial goal is to get into the top-200 and push ahead from there on."

Though Prakash, predominantly a serve-and-volley player, has shown marked improvement in Davis Cups at home and the grass season around Wimbledon, the results have fallen short on hard-courts, the surface that dominates the tennis calendar.

"I think the kind of tennis I play can work on any surface," argues the LA resident. "I beat the top seed at Aptos (Challenger), who has been a top-60 player and beaten players like (Nikolay) Davydenko on the surface."

The summer in US brought a lot of cheer to the Indian camp. Apart from Prakash's run to the ATP final (first by an Indian since Paes in 10 years), his Davis Cup teammates, Rohan Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman also had their moments of glory.

"It's an exciting time for Indian tennis.

"We are all roughly of the same age. A lot of people have been on our cases, asking us why we didn't do better when we were 19 or 20. But Indians mature a lit bit later. Most of the tennis players are almost done by the time they reach 28-29, but we will do better in the later years of our career."

The Indian got close to breaking into the top 200 after the Newport week, but has again pegged back to 222 after two weeks of inactivity. But he continues to be the highest-ranked Indian on the ATP.

True, when he reached the final of the Newport ATP not a single news report went without a paragraph mentioning that his famous father, Vijay, had won the event thrice. But that was only perspective, a fixation to put everything in the context of history. 'Now' is not a bad time for Prakash to be in.

Deepti Patwardhan