Need to have multiple success stories to create tennis culture: Bhupathi

Lamenting the dearth of quality tennis talents in the country, legendary doubles player and the current non-playing captain of the Indian Davis Cup team, Mahesh Bhupathi urged to take a leaf out of Indian badminton’s story where there are multiple success stories for youngsters to emulate.

Bhupathi, who became the first Indian to win a Grand Slam title in the mixed doubles event at the 1997 French Open, was candid enough to admit that tennis has never been a priority in the country, and the reason is lack of quality players playing every Grand Slam.

“I am not the right person to answer because I have a very biased view. Sania Mirza created a revolution 10 years ago when it came to tennis. She broke all boundaries, she was playing in the third round of the Australian Open, third round of Wimbledon, everybody in India was watching her,” Bhupathi told reporters.

“But what happened after that? We don’t have another five Sanias. So I don’t think tennis is a priority in our country.”

“Today badminton is way above tennis because of P.V. Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Parupalli Kashyap, and Gopi (Pullela Gopichand). You need to have multiple success stories non-stop that push people to want to aspire, and unfortunately in India, it doesn’t exist,” he added.

Asked if the creation of junior tournaments in the line of Kabaddi’s KBD Juniors could help inject that tennis culture in the country, Bhupathi said, “In Pro Kabaddi or any other sport, you have 100 players from whom you can pick.”

“Today if you have an Indian league for tennis you don’t have 40 players to pick from. Can you name the top 10 players in India, that’s the concern. Can you name the top five female tennis players in India? Case closed,” he added.

On being asked what has pulled back tennis from becoming India’s most followed sport, despite stars like him, Leander Paes, Sania, and Rohan Bopanna winning in
big-ticket events, Bhupathi, who won four men’s doubles Grand Slams, put the blame on the whole system.

“The whole system is lacking right now. If we have a player consistently playing the Grand Slams and the country following them, then it’s a start. Unfortunately, we did not have this media 10 years ago, if we had this media a decade back when Sania was successful, I think things could have been different, he concluded.    - IANS-PTI