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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