BENGALURU: Sunil Jain was only 18 months old when he was struck with polio. That however never stopped him from achieving what he wanted in life. Now at 40-years-old, Sunil is a chartered accountant and is trying to empower others like him through a tennis tournament, the Tabebuia Open.
The second edition of the tournament that will take place from December 14 to 17 at KSLTA is set to be bigger and with more participants. In the first tourney of the Open in Chennai there were around 36 players. “For the tournament in Bengaluru we are planning to have as many as 45 to 50 players,” says Sunil.
The Tabebuia Open is one of the three projects of the Astha Foundation, an organisation founded by Sunil which aims to empower the differently-abled. “The differently-abled should be treated as any regular person. One of the ways for empowering them is by enabling their engagement in a physical activity. One will not really have a choice but to overcome their current limitations. We zeroed on tennis to serve this purpose,” says Sunil.
The level of competition has also greatly increased since the tournament first started last year. “The final match of the the first tournament last year, lasted for around 45 minutes. In the previous edition of this year’s tournament in Chennai, the final match lasted for around three hours. There was also a woman player from Switzerland who was ranked 24th in the world who also participated in the tournament in Chennai,” says Sunil.
The Tabebuia Open is the first AITA (All India Tennis Associaton) ranked wheechair tennis tournament.While most of the players are from Bengaluru and Chennai, the tournament in December will also have players from other cities.
For 2018, Sunil is planning to organise as many as three tournaments and take it to more cities. “We are still deciding on the cities but places like Hyderabad, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram are on the list of venues,” says Sunil.
In 2019, he plans to organise a world event with players from across the world.Sunil’s efforts are not meant to be a one off event that will be forgotten.
That’s why he says the prize money is also kept high at `2.5 lakh so that players can at least begin to think about earning a livelhood through sports. “If you look at regular tennis in the country. The prize money will only be around ` 1 lakh. We want to make sure what we are doing is serious and will bring real changes to people’s lives,” says Sunil.
The tournament has been endorsed by popular names such as Sania Mirza and Somdev Devvarman. Sunil also plans to have a ranking of wheechair tennis players, soon.