my own goal; Vijay Amritraj

INDIA'S best ever tennis player, who retired in 1988, is now 41 and has a diverse career as an actor, the head of a film company, and president of the ATP Players' Council. But in in 1973 he was just an exciting 19-year-old with dreams of Wimbledon
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The Independent Online
IT WAS the year of the boycott of Wimbledon over player power. I had played my first All England the year before and was knocked out in the second round. But 1973 was a big year for me, and for Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg, who had just arrived on the scene as well.

I wasn't seeded, but I got through to the quarter-finals against Jan Kodes and reckoned I had a good chance of beating him. He had really taken me apart in Paris on the clay the previous year, but I had much the better game for grass. Our match was scheduled for the No1 Court. The quarter- final on the Centre Court at the same time was between Borg and Roger Taylor.

My match with Kodes came down to one point. We were two sets all and Kodes was serving at 4-5 and 0-30. In other words I was only two points away from winning the match and a place in the semi-finals. The point progressed like this: he served, I returned, he volleyed, and I faked a lob over his head. It was a good fake. He had to chase it so far back he was almost in among the television cameras. But he managed to get it back with a lob.

So there I was, waiting underneath the lob, preparing to smash it. It was coming down somewhere around the service line. It wasn't a difficult smash, but the ball had gone pretty high. I didn't want to let it drop because by then the court had begun to cut up a bit and there could have been a funny bounce. I was all set up for the shot and at that very moment a huge roar went up from the Taylor v Borg match.

I can't say it threw me completely, but at the same time I should have made the smash. As it turned out I mistimed it and hit the ball a couple of feet out. It was one of those shots you would miss once in a hundred times. In fact, I always felt very confident on the smash. I am 6ft 4in, and it was one of my best shots - for that reason people didn't often try to lob me. But it was the only shot Kodes could play and all I had to do was land the ball in the court as he was so far out of position he could not possibly have got to it.

If it had gone in, it would have taken me to 0-40 and three match points. I would certainly have been looking at a semi-final against Taylor and possibly a final against Alex Metreveli. I could quite conceivably have won Wimbledon. In the end Kodes did.

From 15-30 I think we might have had a couple of deuces, but Kodes didn't miss a volley after that. There were deuces on my serve in the next game, when he broke me, and I think in the final game, which he won to take the fifth set 7-5.

I ran into Kodes on the seniors' tour last year and he reminded me of that moment and we laughed about it. As far as he was concerned the match was over as I was about to hit that smash. Looking back, it was probably my best chance of winning Wimbledon, even though I played there for another 15 years.

I didn't realise at the time how important it was, of course. In fact, although I was very disappointed when I got back into the locker room, everyone said how incredibly well I'd played. I felt I was on the right track and I proved that by having a very good summer in the United States, when I beat Rod Laver twice, once in the US Open.

It's probably a good thing one doesn't appreciate the significance of things when they happen, because you could find your entire career upset. I feel very lucky to have played tennis for a living. For me it's always a case of half-full, not half-empty.

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