Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Indian tennis needs a miracle

So the big fight over which teams will get cleared for the Guangzhou Asian Games turned out to be a damp squib as the sports ministry decided this was not the time for bullying the sports federations! Just imagine, 36 disciplines and close to 650 athletes have been cleared, and when one mentions names of disciplines like sepaktakraw, wushu, softball tennis, triathlon, ten pin bowling, rugby and handball, you could start imagining another gold rush. Agreed, the Commonwealth Games hangover persists.
Even as medal-winning athletes are being felicitated by various states, their employers and also some corporate houses wanting to cash in on the publicity, the serious athletes have begun training. Take for instance shooting.
Days after the closing ceremony, marksmen like Gagan Narang, Manavjit Sandhu and Abhinav Bindra have started focusing again on the big challenge ahead. At the same time, you have a Saina Nehwal back in Hyderabad enjoying all the attention.
However, that has not stopped her from the hard grind back on the courts, despite the fact that she has been handed a fairly easy draw at the Asian Games. The other day, one of the babus in the sports ministry was actually apologetic when I asked him why teams for some of the sports where India has hardly done anything of note had been cleared.
His explanation was simple - that when crores of rupees can be spent on a balloon (the hyped CWG aerostat), what's wrong if India sends sports teams for 'exposure'? I honestly believe the majority of Indian sporting teams should no longer be referred to as groups going out on fun trips abroad. Gone are the days when India competed just for the 'spirit of competition'.
If there is any message from the CWG, it is that Indian athletes are dead serious about what they do and the government should continue supporting them in a big way. Yet, one sport where we look very shaky despite the hype is tennis. It is no secret that it required some convincing for Somdev Devvarman to agree to play in the Asian Games and not lose sleep over the ATP ranking points he will lose by going to Guangzhou.

Here are some cold facts which not many know. At a time when people lampoon the central and Delhi government agencies for fraud, inflated tenders, poor construction quality and corruption, athletes actually gained from the CWG.
Somdev, for instance, got close to Rs 18 lakh from the sports ministry for his two-year preparation in the lead up to the CWG. His golden effort at the Games guarantees him Rs 20 lakh and insiders now confirm that he will also be getting almost $6,000 per month for his training from now on.
Somdev's seeming reluctance to go for the Asian Games stems from the fact that his seniors - Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and possibly Rohan Bopanna too - will skip Guangzhou. After the shaky performance of Leander and Mahesh in New Delhi, it's clear they are now not the force they were.
When they won the gold in the Doha Asian Games in 2006, all hell broke loose as they were lambasting each other in front of TV cameras!
At least now, you can be sure no such drama will take place in Guangzhou. My point is, if the doubles stars are focusing on the year-end ATP doubles meet in London, did they come to the CWG just because they got paid close to Rs 15 lakh each as 'preparation costs' by the government?
Leander has told people that the year-end doubles meet is something he has never won and he wants to focus on it. The same for Mahesh as well, while Rohan has had an incredible run with Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi in doubles this year. The replacements for these big boys are just not there and it exposes the depth in Indian men's tennis.
Perhaps, just as Somdev emerged from American collegiate tennis, we need to pray for some more miracles. It would seem that India will lose tennis medals in the Asian Games. However, I do not think we need to really cry over it.
If Indian tennis does not end up doing as badly as the sepaktakraw and handball and wushu events, I would be more than happy. At the same time, let's be realistic once again in assessing the medal prospects in Guangzhou.
Barring chess, the cueists and kabaddi, the rest of the competitors will find the competition very challenging. Oh yes, even the Indian football team has been cleared!

Digg Google Bookmarks reddit Mixx StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Buzz DesignFloat Delicious BlinkList Furl

0 comments: on "Indian tennis needs a miracle"

Post a Comment