CHENNAI: As injuries forced Sania Mirza to quit singles and turn doubles specialist, Ankita Raina & Co took over the mantle. When that generation advances in age, who would be called upon to honour the Tricolour? Does the All-India Tennis Association (AITA) even have a system in place?
For the moment, such questions have been put on the backburner by the top-ranked trio of U-14 girls — Mahak Jain, Prinkle Singh and Shivani Amineni — at the ITF World Junior Tennis Asia/Oceania final qualifying, that took place from April 27-May 2 in Bangkok. After successful round robin outings, India stunned third seeds Australia in the quarterfinals before falling to New Zealand in the semifinals. Despite the loss, India qualified for the prestigious World Junior Tennis Finals to be held in Czech Republic from August 3-8.
Nar Singh, AITA development officer and national coach, has a host of positives to take from the trip. “We attained our objective — qualifying for the WJT Finals. I advised the girls on technical improvements that could make a difference. But it’s unwise to make changes just for the sake of it — Mahesh Bhupathi’s service motion looks odd, but he possesses a strong delivery!” he said.
Mahak and Prinkle have been on a roll of late. The duo booked the August 10-15 UK National Finals berths last month with fine showings during the Road to Wimbledon swing. They will get a chance to play on the hallowed lawns of SW19.
Mahak hails from Maharashtra and, like a pro, is already well-versed in the art of not looking too far ahead. She hopes the trio can recreate the ‘magic’ at the WJT Finals. “Nar sir took good care of us in Bangkok. I’ll play some events in Europe before the Finals. Hopefully, it’ll hold me in good stead.”
Prinkle was born in J&K, but her family shifted to Chandigarh when she was five. Tennis is in her blood, it seems, as elder brother Sumit Pal is among the top 10 at the U-16 level. “It was a great experience being part of the U-14 squad. Nar sir is strict, but he’s a good coach and gave us good inputs.”
Shivani, from Telangana, daughter of the Shamshabad DCP, is circumspect about the overall experience. “It was a learning curve. However, I need to improve my fitness and power.”
With talent waiting in the wings, maybe there is hope for India yet!