India has enjoyed decent success in the sport of tennis internationally. Over the years, the country’s players have stepped onto the podium in various world tournaments, including various Grand Slam tournaments and the Olympics.
The likes of Leander Paes, Sania Mirza, Rohan Bopanna and others have become household names in the country, thanks to a cohesive show at the highest level. But, things seem to be far from ideal at the base. Over the past four days, a total of three young tennis stars across the country have been seen asking for some sort of help on the microblogging platform Twitter.
It all started on June 30, 2021, when 17-year-old Tushar Mittal from Delhi posted a tweet tagging Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and Bollywood star Sonu Sood, asking for financial aid.
Mittal, who was ranked number 8 in India and number 1 in Delhi in the under 16 age group, has various national titles to his name in different age groups. He is also a two-time finalist at the CBSE National Championships in the Under-17 category and has been left embarrassed due to his financial situation.
Mittal, in an interaction with The Indian Express, even admitted that his ranking in the Under-18 category fell to 45 due to irregularities in tournament participation.
After Tushar Mittal, it’s the turn of Riya Bhatia – India number 2 in women’s singles.
A 23-year-old woman from Rohtak, Bhatia, took to Twitter and asked India’s Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju to help her get a U.S. visa to compete in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tournaments.
Currently ranked world number 364 in women’s singles and number 387 in doubles, Bhatia has been touted as the one to watch by many on the Indian tennis circuit. She even represented India at the Fed Cup and the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta.
Rijiju quickly responded to Bhatia’s call for help and assured him that he would follow up on the matter and try to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
Echoing Riya Bhatia’s sentiment, Jennifer Luikham, India’s number 11 in women’s singles.
Much like Bhatia, Jennifer from Manipur also tagged the country’s sports minister and asked him to help her get a visa for the Netherlands that would allow her to participate in WTA tournaments in the country.
Although it is difficult to determine what is wrong, it feels like the development of grassroots tennis in India has been overlooked. The country boasts of a group of talented players who have regularly qualified for the main Grand Slam draws, but there is, obviously, a very big gap between them and those below them.
Sportspeople going out and asking for financial aid or asking for visa help is nothing new to India – it has happened a number of times in the past. But with the country now aiming to become a global sports superpower, such incidents will only hinder India’s rise in the sports world.