Sania mania waning?

HYDERABAD: The tennis story of Hyderabad can broadly be
classified in two phases: Before Sania and After Sania. When the
local Hyderabadi with a powerful forehand found a never-been-there
place (for any Indian woman tennis player) in the
WTA rankings, the ripple effect of
Sania’s bull run was felt in the city. From a handful of eight
tennis academies in the year 2003, there are now 40, the number of
young girls joining the academies increasing with each win scripted
by Sania.

Local tennis coaches attribute the rise in the number of tennis
aspirants to the `local identity’ of Mirza. But what is the scene
with the academies now? Has their popularity hit a plateau with
Mirza’s rankings dipping? Well, not really, say coaches and tennis
academy owners maintaining that the game still has takers, but
admit young players are more keen on badminton now.

Besides, they say it is difficult to undo what the Sania
phenomenon has done to the sport at least in Hyderabad. “She gave a
start (to the popularity of tennis in Hyderabad) and has boosted
the confidence of many players. Many sponsors started coming
forward to fund tournaments and even players to encourage the
game,” says Giridhar Reddy, owner of Giri’s Tennis Academy,
Yousufguda. He says that players are unable to sustain their
winning streak in another story altogether.

Observers note that Sania’s impact is still being felt on the
sport. “Recently a tennis academy has come up in Toli Chowki in
Suryanagar and has many takers. Both girls and boys from the
locality are joining the academy,” says Syed Ibrahim Ghori, manager
with GVK Academy, pointing out how the sport’s popularity is only
spreading across various social strata. Meanwhile, the academy he
represents, GVK, he says has seen a steady stream of interested
youngsters.

But while there has been a spurt in numbers, there hasn’t
exactly been much impact on the government’s interest in the sport.
“There is still no infrastructure,” says Praveen Bhargava, former
coach of Sania Mirza and joint secretary, AP Lawn Tennis
Association. He says there are still no synthetic tennis courts for
players in the city, despite the burgeoning interest in the sport.
He further notes that private academies operate from rented
premises and would not spend Rs 10 to Rs 11 lakh needed to make a
synthetic court.

So while Sania gave the push tennis needed, would the
government, both state and Centre, now treat sports differently
given the India’s medal tally at the Commonwealth Games 2010?

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