No coach for Commonwealth Youth Games

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) has left the country’s two best juniors, Zeel Desai and Siddhant Banthia, without any support for the Commonwealth Youth Games to be staged in the Bahamas from July 18 to 23.

Zeel Desai, No.18 in the world among juniors, will be without a coach or a manager at the Commonwealth Youth Games this time.   -  M. Moorthy

For every step its takes forward, Indian tennis looks to rush two steps backwards. While it was a welcome initiative to appoint a coach for the four leading juniors in the country, in their mission on grass in Roehampton and Wimbledon, with suitable support from the Union government, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) has not distinguished itself by leaving the country’s two best juniors, Zeel Desai and Siddhant Banthia, without any support for the Commonwealth Youth Games to be staged in the Bahamas from July 18 to 23.

Both Siddhant and Zeel will be leaving from London for the Bahamas on Monday, after having done their visas for the Bahamas in the UK while they were competing in Roehampton and Wimbledon. I

In fact, the rest of the Indian contingent, of athletes, boxers, swimmers etc., was also scheduled to get the Bahamas visa in London, after it was originally supposed to be a transit point.

It may be recalled that Dhruthi Venugopal and Sasi Kumar Mukund had won the individual gold medals in the boys and girls events apart from the mixed doubles gold in the last edition of the Commonwealth Youth Games held in Samoa in 2015. The team was accompanied by coach Arun Kumar then.

This time, it was an official Dinesh Arora who was assigned the responsibility of taking care of the tennis duo. However, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) insisted on having a coach rather than an official, even though such a demand came pretty late.

Meanwhile, the tennis official pulled out of the trip, after having sought arrangements for travel through the US, if the flight bookings were not available for transit through UK for the Bahamas.

With the high cost discouraging the parents from making the trip to the Bahamas, both Siddhant Banthia and Zeel Desai will be forced to fend for themselves.

Despite it being a clear handicap for the best juniors, quite capable of winning the gold, not to have a coach or a manager, Zeel’s coach Todd Clark who was with her when she made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in Melbourne earlier this season and has guided her to be No.18 in the world among juniors, opted to look at the positive side.

‘’I am unaware of the reasons for this. However, Zeel and Siddhant need to take this as a test of their professionalism and accept that in this upcoming event more personal responsibility will be placed on their shoulders. Developing these skills of travelling and preparing themselves for competition is essential for long term player development’’, observed Todd, when contacted in Ahmedabad.

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