The success of over 15o ACE students has inspired many more to take up tennis. (Dinesh Shukla/EPS)
Tennis was once a little played sport in Gujarat. However, with many young players excelling in the under-14 and under-18 categories, it is now becoming quite popular. And Pramesh Modi, 46, who runs ACE Tennis Academy, has been leading this change.
A tennis coach since 1980s, Pramesh has trained most coaches who currently train players in Ahmedabad. In 1998, he started ACE Tennis Academy, was among the first private tennis academies (the others being in clubs or institutions) with wide-ranging facilities. In 2013, ACE acquired covered tennis courts—a first in Ahmedabad—making round-the-clock practice a reality.
“When I used to coach in the 80s and 90s, tennis was at a nascent stage in Gujarat especially in Ahmedabad. My wife Ami and I started ACE with the aim of changing the scene,” says Pramesh. “By 2008, ACE had around 10 students who played international tournaments and 35 who participated at national level tournaments,” he says.
Several students of ACE are now studying abroad on sports scholarships. About 40 are coaches or professional players.
“My student Vaidik Munshaw was selected to play in Australia. The stories of over 150 ACE students have inspired many to opt for tennis.” And the doors of his academy are open to all. “Some underprivileged youngsters who joined us as ball boys have gone on to become coaches,’’ he says.
“The facilities we provide to outstation players (lodge-and-board, a transfer van) has made tennis accessible to students from small towns and villages. For instance, ACE student Bhoomi Parmar came from Desalpur, a rural area near Bhuj. She won state championships and played in the nationals. She now teaches tennis in Kutch,’’ Pramesh says proudly.
He also trains the physically challenged who are interested in the sport. “Tennis can be played by anyone who can hold a racquet,” he argues. “Recently, Madhu Bagri who trained here went to Bangkok to participate in her first wheelchair tennis competition, conducted by the International Tennis Federation,’’ says Pramesh.
In 2012, Pramesh shifted his academy to a quieter part of Ahmedabad. He wanted to upgrade to covered tennis courts where the game could be played regardless of the weather.
“In Gujarat, extreme heat in April to June and the rains in July make it difficult for students to practice when they are preparing for competitive tennis. We also have many corporate executives, who can only play early morning or late in the evening,” says Pramesh.
The academy has six clay courts covered with a 44 feet high ceiling. The roof has double-coated aluminium sheets and above a row of offices is a gallery for parents to sit and watch their children play. Metal halide lighting make the courts suitable for night tennis. “We have corporate executives and couples coming to play at night. Women also find it convenient to play in covered courts mid-morning or late afternoon when they are done with household chores. We have arrangements with nearby schools to send their students here in the sports period or organize tennis camps for them during holidays. Apart from the tennis courts, the campus of ACE will soon have a café, largely serving healthy food and drinks, and a fitness centre as well. Also in the works is a dance classroom, chiefly to provide revenue to maintain the facilities,’’ he explains.
Pramesh says he has coached over 11,000 students, including state, national, Asian and International Tennis Federation title winners. So what’s next? “I would like to create more international tennis players from Gujarat,’’ he says.