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New Delhi, Nov 24: Lamenting the dearth of quality tennis talents in the country, legendary doubles player and the current non-playing captain of the Indian Davis Cup team, Mahesh Bhupathi on Saturday urged to take a leaf out of Indian badminton’s story where there are multiple success stories for youngsters to emulate.
Bhupathi, who became the first Indian to win a Grand Slam title in the mixed doubles event at the 1997 French Open, was candid enough to admit that tennis has never been a priority in the country, and the reason is lack of quality players playing every Grand Slam.
“I am not the right person to answer because I have a very biased view. Sania Mirza created a revolution 10 years ago when it came to tennis. She broke all boundaries, she was playing in the third round of the Australian Open, third round of Wimbledon, everybody in India was watching her,” Bhupathi told reporters here on the sidelines of the final selection process of Kia Australian Ballkids International Program.
“But what happened after that? We don’t have another 5 Sania’s. So I don’t think tennis is a priority in our country.”
“Today badminton is way above tennis because of (PV) Sindhu, Saina (Nehwal), (Parupalli) Kashyap and Gopi (Pullela Gopichand). You need to have multiple success stories non-stop that pushes people to want to aspire and unfortunately in India it doesn’t exist,” he added.
Asked if the creation of junior tournaments in the line of Kabaddi’s KBD Juniors, could help inject that tennis culture in the country, Bhupathi said: “In Pro Kabaddi or any other sport, you have those 100 players from whom you can pick.”
“Today if you have an Indian league for tennis you don’t have 40 players to pick from. Can you name the top-10 players in India, that’s the concern. Can you name the top five female tennis players in India? Case closed,” he added.
On being asked what has pulled back tennis from becoming India’s most followed sport, despite stars like him, Leander Paes, Sania and Rohan Bopanna winning in big ticket events, Bhupathi, who won four men’s doubles Grand Slams, put the blame on the whole system.
“The whole system is lacking right now. If we have a player consistently playing the Grand Slams and the country following them then its a start. Unfortunately we did not have this media 10 years ago, if we had this media a decade back when Sania was successful, I think things could have been different.”
“Today we can watch our Indian boys playing the Australian Open and the other Grand Slams. All these we didn’t have but I think it will only get better but we need to have some one who is representing us in every Grand Slam,” he maintained.