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For a professional touch

Catching them young At the Junior Tennis league PHOTO: Murali Kumar K.

Catching them young At the Junior Tennis league PHOTO: Murali Kumar K.

As disjointed an idea as it may sound, the concept of team events individual sports like badminton and tennis is increasingly gaining traction. Though in tennis it still cannot be taken seriously, for the International Premier Tennis League and the Champions Tennis League are more like exhibition events, it seems to have percolated to the lower rungs too.

Over the last weekend, the Junior Tennis League (JTL) was conducted for the first time at the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) courts. The brains behind the league are two 26-year-old players-turned-coaches -- Nehal Gaokar and Sujith Sachidanand.

The duo had to discontinue tennis fairly early in their careers owing to injuries and financial constraints.

“We wanted to give every player an opportunity irrespective of their level,” says Nehal.

“We wanted to show them what it is to be auctioned. Every individual sport is changing into a team event. We wanted players to understand how it is to be in different teams, with different coaches and players.”

Five teams of 14 players each participated in the two-day event.

Every round-robin tie had seven matches (three singles and four doubles) and was a one-set affair with a tie-breaker at 5-5 and no-ad scoring.

The team owners were coaches who run tennis academies around Bengaluru and their players were selected at an auction.

“A player is always comfortable with one coach,” explains Nehal. “We are here to train the children to be independent. When they change coaches, they listen to new coaches . A player from one academy can be picked by a coach of another academy.”

“When these guys go to college or play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States, this experience can help. We are trying to make it as professional as possible – providing them with lunch, water, on-court physio etc.” says Sujith.

Sujith feels that the tournament can act as a good place for scouts and sponsors to find talented players.

“This is an environment where there is no pressure to win,” explained Nehal. “The players can play their actual game. S In AITA and other events, there is no learning. ”

However with the ITF Futures and the ATP tournaments being the bread-and-butter events for tennis players, where none of these rules practically exist, how much will such an initiative help the players?

“I have never seen a senior coming and cheering me,” says Sujith. “We know when there is someone there, players give a better performance. Juniors can play at a better level. It is a great change.”

“I don’t see why they shouldn’t take such a step. Players around the world are starting out as when they are 15. Why not these guys? Both of us have been abroad and witnessed this phenomena. The junior players are mature and it reflects in their games.”


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Printable version | Jun 17, 2022 2:46:18 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/for-a-professional-touch/article8426680.ece