Syed Muthahar Saqaf
“Non-availability of a certified coach has been hampering the game”
TIRUCHI: The decision of the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA) to set up MARG Academy of Rural Tennis (MART) and post a certified tennis coach to impart training to the youngsters, has brought much cheer to the sports loving people of the district in general and tennis enthusiasts in particular.
The non-availability of a certified coach has been hampering the game in this district for many years, say a cross section of the lovers of this game.
This was despite the presence of good tennis courts in Anna Stadium, Union Club, Officers Club, City Club in the city. These clubs played a key role in the development of the game in the whole state. Apart from providing tennis facilities to their members, they regularly conducted tournaments that attracted large and enthusiastic crowds.
Tennis was a very popular game in the central districts a few decades ago, thanks to the emergence of legendary players like Ramanathan Krishnan and his son Ramesh Krishnan, Amrithraj brothers, Jayakumar Royappa, a former member of the Indian Davis Cup squad, K. G. Ramesh and Manoj Kumar of Coimbatore, who represented India in the Asian Games, from the State.
Exhibition matches featuring international and national players were regular events here.
Legendary Ramanathan Krishnan and other national stars of his time were seen in action along with foreign players of repute at the tournaments hosted by City Club in the late 1950s, recalls S. Rangarajan, a sports writer.
These exhibition matches were held even in centres like Thanjavur in the 1970s. Players like Jayakumar Royappa, a former national hard court champion, who had twice reached the second round at Wimbledon and a former, participated in such tournaments, which drew huge crowds bearing testimony to the popularity of the game across the state. Leander Paes, while undergoing training at the Brittania-Amrithraj Tennis (BAT) Academy, had played some tournaments at Coimbatore in the late 1980s. Even the inter-university tennis tournaments proved a big draw.
Tennis was a popular sport not only among men, but also among women. Nirupama Vaidyanathan of Coimbatore, the first Indian woman, to play in international tournaments including Wimbledon, Janaki Krishnan and Gowri Krishnan, both of Krishnan family, were some of the notable women stars of yester years.
The Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT), developed courts in the stadiums maintained by them in the district headquarters, but did not post coaches.
The only district to have a SDAT coach was Coimbatore in the 1980s.
The TNTA has done the right thing by setting up the Academy at Tiruchi and posting a certified coach. This will go a long way in promoting tennis in this district, says Prof. Rangarajan.
The Tiruchi District Tennis Association should take full advantage of this opportunity to develop this game not only in Tiruchi city, but also in the rural centres like Manapparai, Thuraiyur, Musiri etc, he says.