THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The oldest tennis club in the country, the Trivandrum Tennis Club, has a history of producing some of the finest top-ranked players and fastest-servers. Davis Cup winner and coach Nandan Bal, who had a session with young tennis players in the club speaks to Express about the sport. Ranking among the best tennis coaches in the country with immense experience including his long-term association with the Davis Cup team, he opines that the current scenario of tennis is fairly good in India.
He says, "In singles we have Prajesh Gunneswaran, Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan who are in the top 100 and in doubles we have about eight players in the top 200 or 300 - something we haven't had in a while. But the question is not about the players but the system which should be in place." There has been a flawless singles record but in doubles it will take some more time as it is a question of experience, he says.
Having coached the Indian Fed Cup team in 1999 which included women players like Ankita Raina, Karman Kaur Thandi, the coach says the women tennis team plays exceptionally well and has a bright future. "Ankita and Karman are barely in their 20s but they play well. I have hopes for Karman who has already made a mark in the Indian women tennis. Her serve is her strength. For me, the most important factor in tennis is maturity. Top players have started late, so I believe it doesn't matter when you start the sport but how you make a mark," says Nandan.
Nandan took up to tennis when he was 10. The purpose? To stay healthy. He feels people take up the sport now in a competitive manner which is unhealthy. Talking about his transition from a Davis Cup winner to a Davis Cup coach, he says, "When we started teaching tennis, there was huge financial crisis. As I was into the sport from the beginning, I never felt coaching is not my niche." Self-belief is the most important thing for a player. This has been missing in our players before, he says.
Training budding tennis talents
An ITF Level 3 coach and ITF coach tutor, Nandan is conducting a five-day tennis training sessions for young talents and coaches of the Trivandrum Tennis Club, Kowdiar. More than 200 students are participating in the training sessions wherein the youngest player is three and the oldest, nine. Being a Davis Cup coach for more than 13 years, he says the most important quality of a coach is the ability to communicate. In this five-day ongoing session, Nandan is training students based on different topics such as technique, endurance. Along with Nandan, K Shankar, who is also an ITF Level 2 certified coach is taking sessions for the coaches and the students.
Shankar says, "We are documenting sessions so that later-comers can learn too." The club is also conducting community tennis for children from economically disadvantaged sections. About 50 children are given training on weekends with the complete support of the club free of cost. " Nandan Bal will be giving training sessions every three months for the children. Through these programmes, we want to create awareness about the sport among parents and children. Our club wants to produce top players like before," says Anilkumar Pandala, secretary of Tennis Club.