Monday, October 08, 2007

Comment of the Week: Asian Tennis



From Tuesday Tirade: Where's the (Asian) Tennis?

rabbit said...

As an asian (Indian), I have to say I strongly disagree with injecting unqualified players into tournaments because of their race.

That being said, I have been very disappointed in the rise of Asian players in the ATP and WTA. I'll speak about India, because I don't know about other asian countries. When Sania started winning some matches circa 2005, the media was also gushing about the other upcoming stars: Rohan Boppana, Prakash (and Stephen) Amritraj and Shikha Uberoi. None of them has panned out or has even come close to making a significant run in the singles circuit. Sania is the lone player carrying the banner for India. I wish her the best, but her attitude of not caring about consistency is rather worrying.

Popular Indian support for tennis is also limited for some reason. Sania Mirza is on the face of many billboards and TV advertisements. But I feel her popularity has less to do with tennis than the fact that she is on international TV. There are many sports-knowledgeable fans in India, but most are concerned with cricket and, to a lesser extent, football (or soccer). What really shocked me recently was a report from a cousin of mine in Kolkata about the Sunfeast Open. Just so you know, Calcuttans are supposed to be rabid sports fans. There is no better way to start a conversation with a Bengali than to utter the word "Ronaldinho". Many of my relatives in Kolkata are big tennis fans. In any case, I thought that given the population in Kolkata and the general sports-knowledge level of people, the Sunfeast Open would be packed. According to my cousin, though, it was so empty that you could walk up to the first row! Hell, in Kolkata, even the grocery store is elbow-room only! Supposedly after Sania decided to bow out, the mostly Russian players who remained failed to attract the attention of many people.

I realize that tennis is an expensive sport and requires a lot of capital. But, there's a large number of people in India who can afford to set up sports centers to encourage tennis play and financially support aspiring players. With a billion people, surely we can churn out 3 good players :) Recently, there's been an initiative by the Indian tennis federation to create a grand slam winner by the year 2020. That looks a dream far from being realizable now...

5 comments:

tristann said...

Interesting post, Rabbit. I have a question that maybe you can answer. How is the junior tennis scene in India and in the rest of Asia. Is there a regional tour with quality tournaments? I feel like this can make quite a difference for future pros. Europe, for instance has TennisEurope which permits European juniors to play high quality tournaments without as much travel as the ITF circuit would require.

It can be very difficult and expensive for juniors to travel far and the availability of local tourneys, I believe, can make somewhat of a difference.

We are starting to see some good tournaments in Asia. Hopefully they will begin to attract more attention from the viewing public. The more popular a sport becomes, the more likely people are to invest in the sport, both in time and money.

Ricky Dimon said...

Sweet blog. I linked this on my site, Pro Tennis Blog (www.protennisblog.com) - link mine of here if you feel so inclined and deem it worthy!

Thanks!

rabbit said...

Thanks, Craig!

How is the junior tennis scene in India and in the rest of Asia. Is there a regional tour with quality tournaments?

I know that there is a fairly developed all-India junior program. I know one person who participates in the junior circuit, and it seems to be well put together (see, e.g., http://www.aitatennis.com/). There are also several ITF and Challenger events held and a few other tournaments for pro players.

But I think the problem is perhaps more at a lower level. Indian high schools have far, far smaller organized sports/athletic events than schools in the US. Very few kids dream of being professional players in any sport, let alone tennis. Things are changing, but the change is quite slow.

I agree with you that the more high-quality tournaments are held and the more they captivate audiences, the more the sport will become popular. Perhaps there will be one extraordinary player who will then motivate a whole crowd.

tristann said...

Thanks Rabbit.
You are right in that it will probably take a star player to motivate people, but then it is important that the opportunities be there for those who would join the sport, or encourage their children to play.

Sri said...

i am from india too. i think the major problem for our country has been lack of enough courts. I just cant see tennis courts being available for the public or in schools. So very few people play tennis and as a result very few reach the summit. Of the billion people in our country,i am sure only a very small % have ever touched a tennis racquet.Standards in colleges are appaling. Set the infrastructure right and then india will start producing stars.