CHENNAI : The Pondicherry State Tennis Association (PSTA) is a new entity. Having got recognition from the All India Tennis Association (AITA) in 2017, this body is taking baby steps towards developing the sport in the Union Territory. Its efforts got a shot in the arm at the ongoing national ranking junior meet on Thursday, when two of their players reached the finals.In the under-14 semifinals of the AITA 1st Robin Manfred Memorial Championship at Krishnan Tennis Centre, Anirudh Aditya beat Rakshak Tarun of Sivakasi 6-3, 6-3.
SK Joshitha reached the final in the girls’ section in the same category, with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Andhra Pradesh’s Harshini Vishwanath. Not that players from the Union Territory had never made a mark at the national level, the graph has headed north after the association got affiliation.
“Till 2017, players had to go out to play AITA tournaments because we were not affiliated. We were not allowed to conduct national-level tournaments. Most of the players had to miss out because they couldn’t afford to travel. Also, there was no proper infrastructure for practice,” said PSTA Secretary D John Bosco.
Since coming under the national body’s banner, the association has conducted eight AITA tournaments in U-12, U-14 and U-16 categories, which helped local players. There are reasons for them to take up tennis. The results are showing. Other than the two finalists, there was another — Akshaya Rivera — who lost in the semifinals of the ongoing event.
PSTA officials attribute this to the creation of infrastructure. “We didn’t have own courts till a few years back. The first two AITA events we conducted were held on the courts of a private club. Later, we laid four clay courts at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex. One of these has floodlights. Two more will be inaugurated in the first week of January. They will have the provision of playing under lights,” informed PSTA president M Pratapan.
Having got the playing arenas in place, the PSTA has to take a crucial next step. They don’t have certified coaches to train their youngsters. The reason is financial. The association has sponsors for the tournaments they conduct. Each of them cost around `50,000. For other activities, there isn’t much assistance. Anirudh, for example, trains under PSTA committee member A Francis, who is a part-time coach.
“Right now, we don’t have certified trainers. There are plans to train them according to AITA norms and things are in the pipeline. We are trying our best to get sponsors for more tournaments and other activities. Good performances give us strength and we are motivated to provide the players more support,” added the PSTA president.