Travelling to venues, increasing expenses, time spent away from work… parents too make many sacrifices when their children decide to pursue professional tennis
As part of our experience of watching any sport in the modern era, we take certain things for granted. Equipment is one of them. So is sponsorship. It would be outrageous to even imagine a situation under which a top-level tennis player is not able to play due to a lack of racquets or funds required for travel.
Unfortunately, for a large section of young Indian tennis players this situation is a reality with which they grapple on a daily basis. Only a few lucky ones have access to sponsorship while the rest depend on their parents’ earnings.
Financial pressure aside, the choice of becoming a tennis player is in itself courageous. For once, one chooses tennis as a profession, the person is faced with a staggering task of playing a ‘lonely’ sport. Tennis players have often complained how they have to contend with endless training which leaves them little time for anything else.
As the players end up spending a majority of time with their coaches, the family’s role in their development is invaluable. In most cases, young players travel with at least one of their parents to tournaments. This practice, along with pushing up the costs, causes major disturbances in the parents’ profession.
“I usually take my 13-year-old daughter to different tournaments across the country. My husband isn’t always able to travel with us due to his job commitments. While she lacks the maturity, at present, to understand the sacrifices made by us, we have to guard ourselves against putting too much pressure on her,” says Seejal Desai from Gujarat, mother of tennis player Zeel.
While Zeel is one of the lucky ones to have found a sponsor, Andhra Pradesh’s P. V. Gnana Bhaskar belongs to the majority. Bhaskar’s father, Ramchandra, is a Chartered Accountant who encouraged his son to pick up the sport in order to keep him fit. After Bhaskar showed his inclination to take up the sport seriously, Ramchandra has faced major difficulties in his efforts to make his son a professional tennis player.
“Our government awards huge amounts of money to Olympic medal winners. Though there’s nothing wrong with that, it would help players like my son a lot if it were to provide them with even a small portion of the money given to achievers like Saina Nehwal.”
While a sponsorship undoubtedly helps a player considerably, it’s not always enough as one of India’s topmost young players found out. Despite performing exceedingly well in national and international competitions, Karnataka’s B. R. Nikshep still fails to get enough racquets and shoes from his sponsor.
Hence, in order to overcome the deficit, parents are often forced to take loans from banks or depend on their respective state tennis organisation. Though a few state associations provide some of their players an opportunity to train at international coaching schools, the situation isn’t the same everywhere. Lack of tournaments in quite a few states hampers the development of young, talented players.
Though Indian tennis players have performed well in doubles, the lack of sponsorship and coaching has always hurt their prospects in the singles format. Major success at the junior level notwithstanding, the inaccessibility of the required facilities has ensured that many youngsters and their parents’ dreams are never translated into reality.