He was a member of the Australian athletics relay team in the 1988 Seoul Olympics which finished sixth in the finals. But, the 49-year-old Robert Ballard, on his maiden visit to India, is now busy training young talent at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy.
“Yes, the awareness about the importance of desired physical conditioning programmes for each sport is well below par not just in India, but in most of the Asian countries.
“Exactly for this reason, my focus during the four-week training has been to train the boys and girls here on how important it is to master tennis-centric physical conditioning programmes,” said Ballard, who worked with Rohan Bopanna, Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan besides the Indonesian Davis Cup team.
In the company of two-time Grand Slam winner Sania Mirza, Ballard has been putting the SMTA trainees through the grind the kind of which they never experienced before.
“He has brought in a new element in physical training programme for these players and the fact that they are enjoying despite it being really tough is proof of the way Ballard has been successful in getting his message across,” said Sania.
The Aussie confessed that he was actually “shocked” with the results of the tests conducted on some of the trainees over the last few days with the exception of Nidhi Chilumula and India’s No. 1 deaf and dumb player Shaik Jafreen. “Physical conditioning is no more a ritual. Unless you are extremely fit, you cannot put on show your game.
“How can you essay a forehand unless you have the ability to reach for the ball in a split second and with the power required?” the Aussie asked.
“Tennis is not just hitting the ball on the court. You have to have a conditioning programme in place, which complements the ‘technical’ practice you indulge on the court,” added Ballard.
“You have to be a great athlete as well to be a quality tennis player. Unfortunately, physical literacy is well below par in this part of the world. So, I am making a conscious effort to train the coaches too in this regard.”