Bopanna: 'Differently-abled athletes are inferior to none'

Speaking on Tuesday at the launch of the Indian Wheelchair Tennis Tour’s (IWTT) Tabebuia Open, India's doubles star Rohan Bopanna exuded hope that India would one day have players competing in wheelchair tennis at Grand Slams.

Rohan Bopanna unveiling the trophy at the launch of Indian Wheelchair Tennis Tour’s (IWTT) Tabebuia Open at the KSLTA in Bengaluru on Tuesday.   -  N. Sudarshan

India’s doubles star Rohan Bopanna exuded hope that India would one day have players competing in wheelchair tennis at Grand Slams. Speaking on Tuesday at the launch of the Indian Wheelchair Tennis Tour’s (IWTT) Tabebuia Open, a national-level wheelchair tournament to be held at the KSLTA courts from December 2 to 4, Bopanna said that the differently-abled athletes were inferior to none.

“Wheel-chair tennis isn’t any different. For example, at premier tournaments we all share the same locker room. We are all equal. So it’s fantastic to see a tournament, which will help the players at the grassroots, happening here.”

The event will also mark the first time a wheel-chair event is being recognised by the All India Tennis Association. Players will now be registered with the AITA and are eligible for a ranking. “This is the first step towards developing a circuit,” said Sunil Jain, founder trustee of ASTHA, an NGO working for the uplift of the differently-abled, of which IWTT is a division.

“These athletes need a platform to build professionalism,” he said. “It’s also about changing people’s perceptions through excellence. I hope this is the beginning of more things to come.” K. Gopinath, an international-level player, said that this would provide a better stage for the athletes to showcase their skills.

“We have been competing for quite a while,” he said. “But we do need some transformation. We don’t need sympathy. We just need opportunities. So we are all happy with this.” The event will disburse in total Rs. 2.5 lakh as prize money. In all, it will see close to 40 players competing in both singles and doubles.

Also on the occasion, KSLTA’s joint-secretary P.R. Ramaswamy, announced a National-level wheelchair tennis tournament in the near future. It would be sponsored by a prominent India player, he said, but refused to divulge further details.