‘Indian tennis did not capitalise on Sania’s achievements’

Olympian Rushmi Chakravarthi feels the AITA needs to be more involved in talent management

Olympian Rushmi Chakravarthi is open to grooming young girls.   -  Stan Rayan

For a sport that appeared vibrant and glamorous when Sania Mirza was at her peak a few years ago, women’s tennis has conceded much ground to badminton these days.

And there is a feeling that tennis and its officials did not capitalise on Sania’s impressive rise – she was once No. 27 in the WTA world singles rankings and No. 1 in doubles – as much as badminton has been doing with Saina Nehwal’s and P.V. Sindhu’s achievements.

Olympian Rushmi Chakravarthi sees this as an opportunity lost and feels the current bunch of talented young girls need a hand to hold on the tough circuit.

“Yes definitely, because I see in other disciplines, they have made the best of it. I think more could have been done, we could have definitely seen better results with the girls,” said Rushmi, who played the women’s doubles with Sania at the 2012 London Olympics, in a chat with Sportstar during the Petroleum Board all-India athletics meet here on Thursday.

“Now, we’ve dropped down way below other sports, so I think we need to pick up.”

Need for a strong sytem in place

There is a talented bunch, like Ankita Raina, the world’s highest-ranked Indian at No. 187, Zeel Desai, Karman Thandi and Pranjala but Rushmi feels that they need to have the reassuring feeling that they have a strong system backing them.

“I would say the AITA (tennis’ national body) needs to be a bit more involved. More talent needs to be identified, the system needs more planning, tournament structure, training, and a little bit guidance and mentoring,” said the 2010 Commonwealth Games women’s doubles bronze medallist, also with Sania.

“Players are just left on their own to fend for themselves. It’s a bit difficult. It’s very detached now, each individual is doing his or her own thing and then we expect them to come together at the Games.”

Rushmi, a multiple national champion in singles and doubles who was active on the circuit for nearly three decades till 2014, says she frequently helps out young girls.

Guiding youngsters

“I feel, direction is something that youngsters are all losing. When they are 14, 15, 16, they don’t know where to go, how to plan their tournaments, training and everything, so I help out a lot of youngsters. I do a lot of mentoring with the junior girls,” said Rushmi, a senior manager with the Indian Oil Corporation in Chennai.

She feels the AITA could use the experience of former players to help the young girls.

“I think women are pushed to the back seat. I think in planning, some senior girls need to be brought into the picture because it’s a different set of tournaments. We will definitely be happy to contribute but only if there is an initiative on the part of the AITA that they are keen to have us on board.”