CHENNAI: Initially part of the original line-up in 2014, V Chennai Warriors finally made its belated debut in the second season of the Champions Tennis League (CTL) on Wednesday. The home team’s loss notwithstanding, Vijay Amritraj’s brainchild managed to pull in a decent crowd with some celebrities thrown in for good measure. Ditto Thursday. With two-day stops in three cities each per zone, the bandwagon will move onwards.
It’s clear everyone involved with the league is enjoying every bit of it; a splendid sight to witness the cheery faces of players — both young and old. Amritraj has said on numerous occasions, the goal is to produce singles players... this purpose justifies the inclusion of a junior boy and girl in each side. But can such a venture make a difference in the long run?
In a country populated by a billion people, it’s disappointing to see that just three — Yuki Bhambri, Saketh Myneni and Somdev Devvarman — reside within the top 200. Bhambri, the World No 91, is the sole top-100 representative. Surely there’s got to be more potential in the land of mysticism!
Hyderabad Aces legend Thomas Johansson, the 2002 Australian Open champion, feels positive about the CTL experiment, saying juniors can imbibe what seniors have to say, both on practice courts and dugouts. “Spreading tennis across India is a great mission. There’s only one ATP 250 event, the Chennai Open, in the country and we’re going to different cities so they can see some of the best players in action. Having two juniors in every team gives us professionals a chance to share our knowledge and experience with them. I wish I had this opportunity when I was young,” he says.
Someone who can relate to being nowhere one day and a force on another is former World No 1 Jelena Jankovic. The first Serbian to win a Grand Slam — 2007 Wimbledon mixed doubles — comes from a war-torn nation, getting nothing on a platter. Sheer grit in the face of adversity has been their calling card. “Our country is very small and doesn’t have great economic status. But we’ve learned to fight for our rights and to be successful overall. Without good facilities and system in place, we’ve had three No 1s (Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic). It shows that background doesn’t matter, but belief and hard work go a long way,” the Nagpur Orangers player adds.
Another Oranger, Feliciano Lopez, comes from the thoroughbred land of Spain. With 15 of his compatriots nestled amongst the world’s top 100, maybe India can learn from their methods. Quite a few Indian youngsters train there to improve their physicality nowadays. “What’s the reason for Spain’s success? In the last 20 years, we’ve had many talented players. But it’s not about just that; one has to be strong and also a bit lucky. While bred on the topspin baseline game, we’ve improved so much on other surfaces,” he opines.
Mumbai Tennis Masters
Nitin Kumar Sinha
Harsha Sai Challa
V Chennai Warriors
With such fine examples guiding Generation Z, perhaps there’s hope for India yet. The CTL seems poised to make a difference... what remains to be seen is how much it accomplishes.