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Rediff.com  » Sports » Vijay Amritraj downplays 'Chennai controversies'

Vijay Amritraj downplays 'Chennai controversies'

Last updated on: January 03, 2010 17:50 IST

"Am I a mascot for this tournament?," asked Vijay Amritraj, somewhat perplexed on being asked variations of the same question.

The 2010 Chennai Open is yet to start but there is enough drama already, with the tennis legend skipping the official draw ceremony -- having been the master of ceremonies for the last 14 years -- amidst reports that he was unhappy with his son Prakash not being handed a wildcard for the event.

Also the fact that local newspapers had carried reports about tournament officials commenting on the issue added the necessary spice.

So it wasn't surprising that the legend took time to settle down at a press conference, organised to clarify his stand on the whole issue, or, do we say, controversy.

"I think in most people's eyes I would be (a mascot) as I was responsible for bringing this event to India," said Amritraj, adding, "but let's not make a mountain out of a mole hill."

The three-time Major quarter-finalist was quick to downplay his absence from the organising committee.

"I have absolutely no regrets for not being part of the organising committee," said Amritraj.

An elaborate explanation followed.

"I was obviously not invited to be a part of the organising committee. But I never expected it either," he said, adding, "I wasn't there in it before as well. I was the non-executive chairman, more as a face of the tournament.

"And, hopefully, it helped the tournament. So it was just a question of moving on. But any help they need, I will always be there."

Amritraj's reply was guarded when he was asked to comment on the organisers.

"It is wrong to pick out on individuals because my commitment is to tennis, irrespective of who is running it," he said.

"If somebody told me they want to ease me out, I would be happy to bow out. There's no reason to do it in any particular manner," he added.

However, Amritraj's reply was straightforward when asked about his absence from the draw ceremony.

"I wasn't invited for the draw ceremony," he said.

Was he upset at Prakash not getting a wildcard?

"Absolutely not," said Amritraj, defending himself at the first available opportunity.

"Very few things upset me.

"In fact my strong recommendation to the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association was very simple -- that the first preference would go to the Davis Cup members, and since Carlos Moya was already getting a wildcard, if Somdev got into the draw on the basis of his ranking, Yuki should be given the next shot."

And how did Prakash react to the whole issue, having received the wild card every year since 2002.

"The moment he realised he was not getting a wildcard, the first thing Prakash said to the media was that he was going to play in the qualifiers," said the proud father.

"And I think that's where you show character, for there is no glory without guts!"

Bikash Mohapatra in Chennai