Indian tennis, in the late nineties and first few years of the new millennium, the current situation of the game in the country may startle you.
India’s recent loss to Serbia in the world group play-off last weekend is just another instance of how India is losing grip of the game, in which the country has always produced if not world-beaters but world-class stars over the years.
If India’s performance as team is taken into account over the last five years, it really cuts a sorry figure. Debacle at both 2012 London Olympics and 2016 Rio Olympics are the two-standout failures.
A gold at the recently concluded Asian Games in Indonesia and being promoted to the world group have been the two biggest achievement in this phase.
Numerous factors have plagued Indian Tennis over the years, which has led to the downfall. Here is a look at number of factors, which may have aggravated the poor form.
The Paes Factor
This has been lingering on since the 2006 Doha Asian Games and comes to the fore every time India is about to take part at the Davis Cup events as well as in the Olympics and other quadrennial events.
Like the 2012 London Olympics, the other team members had problem with Leander Paes ahead of the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Despite Rohan Bopanna’s reluctance to be paired with Leander Paes in doubles at the 2016 Rio Olympics, he was forced to play with him and thus India’s campaign ended on a sorry note.
This year too Paes withdrew from the Asian Games squad just two days before the event. Reason cited this time was that he was not happy with his doubles partner. The drama didn’t end there as exactly 12 days later Paes was dropped from the Davis Cup squad against Serbia.
The Paes saga has been a recurring thing which has certainly taken a toll on the players as well as their performance which has expectedly affected India’s growth in the game.
Lost in Transition
At the junior level, India has always produced promising talents from time to time. However, unfortunately these players haven’t maintained their same form by the time they reached the senior level.
Yuki Bhambri was junior world number one but by the time, he graduated and entered the big stage he had fizzled out and lost most of his steam.
Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal, Dhakshineshwar Suresh and Nitin Sinha all have been victim of such a phenomenon. Ramkumar can still be an exception.
Indian players take a little longer time to mature, especially when they are between 18-24, and that is when the governing body should put in all their resources behind them.
At such a young age, these players should travel with a coach and have a dedicated coach but sadly that is not the case.
Lack of Funds
Tennis continues to be a very expensive sport today also. And the funds in the game have always been a headache.
India’s best players need to play abroad and need to have all the resources behind them. For tennis to grow in the country it needs to be marketed well.
All India Tennis Association should back its top players. A development fund is the need of the hour and the corporates, who have forayed into most of the sports in the country, should be urged to actively participate in tennis too.
Unfortunately, during its heydays also the game had also attracted very less support from the corporate.
Funds are required for top coaches, foreign tours and proper training arrangements. Currently, players are paying from their own pocket for their training.>