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The tennis greats owe it to their parents

Saba Nayakan | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on June 10, 2012

The second Grand Slam mixed doubles title Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza-Malik won at the French Open brings into sharp focus the excellence or lack of it by the Indians other than a few notable ones. Since the time of Ramanathan, his son Krishnan and his grandson Ramesh or the Amritraj brothers – Vijay, Anand and Ashok – to that of Mahesh, Leander Paes to Sania, international exposure and Grand Slam victories were a preserve of a few.

As a game tennis has a huge following in India. From the days of Kolkata's very own Dilip Bose, the first Indian to win the Asian title to Akhtar Ali, his son Zeeshan, Premjit Lall, Jaideep and Chiradeep Mukerjea, Naresh Kumar to Enrico Piperno and many others excelled in the world of amateur tennis.

For them the Davis Cup was the ultimate. Even today many city-based tennis buffs of yore fondly recall the sons of Bengal and their exploits in the Davis Cup competition at the South Club lawn courts.

Now the picture is totally different. The number of children who play the game in India will perhaps be the highest. There are a number of tournaments all over the country for different age groups. These tournaments played under the aegis of the All India Tennis Association help the children gain AITA points and participate in different ITF circuits

inside and outside the country to gain points and ranking that will ultimately pave the way for them to qualify for higher ranking tournaments and ATP or WTP meets. In this scenario, two factors need to be elaborated that were directly responsible in helping grow the game. The first one is obviously the role of the National Federation and State Associations in shaping the career of young hopefuls and the second is the struggle the players go through to reach some level of competence.

AITA's affiliated units in different States mostly confine their work in picking teams for National events and ensure the local tournaments are run regularly by the clubs. In some rare cases, the State Associations provide infrastructure support to their players to hone the skills.

The National body's job is mostly to regulate the State Associations, pick teams for the Davis Cup and ensure different National and International tournaments are held regularly.

The hardest part of producing a player is neither the responsibility of the National Federation nor that of the State Associations. At least that has been the norm so far in this country. Take the case of India's latest tennis sensation, Somdev Devverman. A native of Tripura, Somdev would not have been what he is today without the support of his parents. A high ranking central government official, his father made sure his son got the best of coaching in Chennai, ensured his son progressed through the ranks to international arena seamlessly. He must have spent a fortune, invaluable time and energy to groom his son to stardom. Somdev's success is an isolated one in many Indian tragedies.

In fact, the story is the same everywhere from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. All those children who made it to different level in tennis will speak a different tale in each household. But there is one common thread in all: enormous sacrifice by the parents.

Therefore, the success achieved by Bhupathi, Paes, Devvarman, Rohan Bopanna, Sania, Yuki Bhambri and many others are all individual efforts shaped by their parents. Dr Vece Paes, Mr Krishna Bhupathi and Mr Imran Mirza were the lucky ones to see their children scaling Grand Slam heights.

For the rest and their parents the struggle continues in search of excellence.

> saba@thehindu.co.in

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Published on June 10, 2012
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