CHENNAI: “It is difficult to find motivation for this sport in our country, where people don’t even recognise what we are doing. If cricket is the first in priority, tennis is not even the second or third. Participation has increased with every tournament, but not the awareness among people,” says Parikshit Somani, top seed of the MCC Junior National Clay Court Championship 2017.
Hailing from Assam and representing West Bengal, the 17-year-old won the under-18 title at the ITF World Junior Ranking Tournament held at Nonthebari, Thailand, last year. This wasn’t the first time that Somani was under spotlight. In 2011, he became the second Assam boy to top the AITA (All India Tennis Federation of India) under-12 rankings. Thanks to his father, a former player, Somani derived inspiration to pick up the racket at the age of three.
“I used to accompany my dad whenever he played. It was then I began to feel I need to play. Talking about the Thailand tour, the conditions are tougher in south Asian countries. It was important for me to improve my forehand.” Somani, who is been playing for more than 10 years, believes in having long-term objectives.
“It’s always good to have something to achieve for a long period. In three years, I want to feature in the top 600 in the world, though my target is to win this.” Coming from a family of chartered accountants, Somani also dreamt of taking up the profession, but realised it can’t go hand-in-hand with tennis. The class 12 student gets the help of his mother and school teachers in lessons and also looks for tutors in other states when he is travelling.
“It’s a lot of pressure to deal with for sportspersons. School is not a problem in terms of attendance, as they are supportive to allow me to take exams. It’s difficult to manage when you are constantly travelling. Since I’m going to Pune after this, I have arranged for a tutor there. “ His idol is Roger Federer and Somani says it was a driving force when a 20-yearold Alexander Zverev won the Rogers Cup recently.
“Zverev beating Roger at that age is the moment that motivates young players like us.” With tennis being a financially demanding sport, Somani feels the state associations’ support is not enough. “In West Bengal and Assam, getting support from the government is difficult. From the state association I have received `50,000 till now. But the sport needs atleast `20 lakh per year. I am looking for sponsors in Pune. With that, I hope I get to attend international events too.”