When Federer plays video games, he prefers to be Sachin, says master blaster – Sachin Tendulkar shares some unknown facts about Roger Federer, which young Indian athelete has impressed him and more.
Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar (R) and his wife Anjali (C) attend the men’s final tennis match between Switzerland’s Roger Federer and US Andy Roddick on Day 13 at the 2009 Wimbledon tennis championships at the All England Club on July 5, 2009. (AFP)
Sachin Tendulkar is one of the privileged few in India who calls Roger Federer by his first name. The legendary Indian batsman has been a regular to Wimbledon, especially after his retirement and is seen at the Royal Box at SW19 for at least one Federer game every year. This year, it was the semifinal last week en route to Federer’s record eighth Wimbledon title.
That Tendulkar and the Swiss maestro have mutual admiration for each other is well known. But, on Tuesday, Tendulkar spoke about the 19-time Grand Slam winner.
“Roger follows cricket,” Tendulkar said in Mumbai at a promotional event. Tendulkar continued: “Also, something which I learnt is that when Roger is playing video games, he prefers to be Sachin and when I am playing any racquet game, I prefer to be Roger. When there is no net in between, I am a very good tennis player.” Tendulkar enjoys watching the year’s third Grand Slam played on grass from the Royal Box. “It is fantastic because you rub shoulders with some of the champions, not just from the current era. When I was at Wimbledon, I got to meet the great Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg. They are all amazing personalities.”
Wimbledon is not the only event that Tendulkar frequents. He has travelled widely to many sports events across the world. “When I go to Formula One, I get to meet such great personalities who have achieved so much. To be there and breathe and soak in that atmosphere is incredible. I remember there was a race in Silverstone (British GP) which I watched where Sir Frank Williams and Sir Jackie Stewart, the great Formula One champions, were there. Actually, Sir Jackie Stewart took a grid walk with me and said ,‘I will take you all around and tell you more about Formula One’.
“That was one race which I sat with both of them. It was an experience for me because I could actually hear what they were communicating with the driver and how they were planning. It was obviously supposed to be confidential and I just kept quiet as a big fan. I was just absorbing everything for a couple of hours. It was really enlightening because you get to see what goes beyond a Formula One race. What you see is the cars going round and round the circuit, but there is much, much beyond that.”
‘17 today is not young’
From being a child prodigy, Tendulkar realised his cricketing dreams and held almost every batting record in his 24-year-international career. Tendulkar will be cheering the Indian football team in the upcoming FIFA U-17 World Cup to be held in India in October. “The U-17 World Cup will have some world-class players playing. I am looking forward to this tournament because World Cup in any format is a competition at the highest level where the players don’t want to compromise on anything, they don’t want to give an inch to others.
“I was in Rio last August (for Olympics) and I was watching Rugby 8s, a women’s match and I never thought it would get so physical. It was incredible. “The age of 17 in today’s world is not young. It is just about when you are looking to be competitive, it is the age when you are looking to push hard and sometimes cross the line. But there are guys who stay within those limitations and go out and deliver.
“For any sportsperson, the best thing to happen to them is how the spectators are responding and this is India’s great opportunity to show our support towards other sports which we have been showing. This is only about taking it to the next level. I am sure the spectators won’t disappoint us and they’ll go out and support those youngsters, especially the Indians.”
Dipa Karmarkar’s success impressed Sachin Tendulkar
Sports has been Tendulkar’s life. It is impossible to imagine him without being associated with sports. In his own words: “Sports is my life. It is like oxygen to me, it is difficult to live without it. So many people call sport a profession. I don’t like to call it that way. I call it a passion. I have always been passionate about sports.” Being an ambassador of sport, Tendulkar feels, is a “responsibility I enjoy”.
“When I was 10, I saw Kapil Dev lift the beautiful trophy at Lord’s (1983 World Cup). From there on, my journey started and along the way came along those great cricketers. I would like to believe all of us have motivated youngsters and inspired them. “According to me, what you leave behind is really important and what we have left behind, our generation, the Indian team that is playing today.
“Similarly, when I started travelling post retirement, the biggest sporting event was in Rio where we saw some incredible performances. I felt that in badminton that we did well and in the other sports we did well, a mix of excitement and some disappointment. What really caught my eye was Dipa Karmakar, a lady from Agartala. She participated in gymnastics and to get to where she did, is an incredible story. That happens when you get to see heroes on TV, which is a powerful platform to change the nation.
“One side of the coin is that by 2020, India is going to be a young nation. On the other side, India is No. 3 in the world when it comes to obesity. A young and unhealthy nation is a perfect recipe for disaster. I was telling some friends at Royal Box (in Wimbledon) what India needs is more participation in sporting activities. My grandmother used to say ‘health is the real wealth’.”
At 44, after conquering the world in his chosen sport, Tendulkar considers himself a student of the game even today. “The first thing that Achrekar Sir (his first coach) told me was that ‘you have to be a student of this game’. My brother Ajit travelled occasionally on tours with me. One thing that never failed was a phone call between us after every match, every innings, every evening and we would discuss what went wrong and where I can get better.
“If you are prepared to accept your mistakes, you become a better player and I woke up every morning chasing something. I wanted to become a better player, I wanted to correct something, I wanted to go and perform something. And, that continued all the way till the last innings of my career. As long as that is there, we will continue to move forward in life.”