MSTLA to focus on grassroots and support seniors

The MSLTA will use a corpus of Rs. 1 crore to support two or three players, but on a condition that they will pay back in instalments, once they make it big like breaking into the top 100 or 200 of the ATP ranking list.

The MSLTA, which spends on its own Rs. 80 lakh annually, held in all 130 tournaments last year, majority of it for grass root development and training the tribals.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

The Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA) has decided to take a giant step forward from its well-focused philosophy of nurturing talent at the grass root level to financially assist the promising men and women players at the senior level. It’s been some time since the State, which has a rich Davis Cup legacy, gave a player to the national team, but this is not the primary reason for it to shift gears and bring succour to the men and also to women who have taken the first step of getting ranked internationally.

The MSLTA will use a corpus of Rs. 1 crore to support two or three players, but on a condition that they will pay back in instalments, once they make it big like breaking into the top 100 or 200 of the ATP ranking list. "This is the Russian and China model. The players there pay a percentage of the prize money they win to the national association. In some other countries the players give the full prize money, or work out a 60-40 or 70-30 basis formula. This system will help the authorities to maintain the corpus and assist more players,’’ said Sunder Iyer, Hon. Secretary, MSLTA at a press conference to announce the association’s initiatives and programme for the next season.

The MSLTA played a big part in the rise of Prarthana Thombhare who will partner Sania Mirza in the women’s doubles event of the Rio Olympics. Raised at Barshi in the Solapur district of Maharashtra, the 22 year old Prarthana received financial support in the form of cost of tickets to play in overseas tournaments and training in Europe.

"We have also decided to raise the prize money tournaments from $ 150,000 last year to $ 200,000. The MSLTA will stage two men’s Asian Tennis Tour (ATT) event at the Khar Ghymhana and at the MSLTA Ranade Tennis Centre in September. "We will also organise the $ 50,000 KPIT ATP Challenger in Pune, four $ 25,000 womens events in Pune, Navi Mumbai and Aurangabad. In addition we will stage three $ 10,000 women’s ITV events at Pune, Solapur and Nashik. This will help the Indians who will be given will card entries at the qualifying stage and in the main draw,’’ said Iyer.

The MSLTA, which spends on its own Rs. 80 lakh annually, held in all 130 tournaments last year, majority of it for grass root development and training the tribals. "This season we will stage 150 tournaments. Now we have also decided to open out for the senior players. We have also set out on a Vision2020 programme. This programme will have 111 players (junior to women). The idea of this programme is to imbibe fundamental sports skills and train players to compete using science and technology and help players into professional athletes.’’

Always in the forefront of creating opportunities, the MSLTA has also started the Mumbai Open Junior Tennis League and the Pune Junior Tennis league. "Apart from Mumbai and Pune, there is tennis activity across all districts in the State,'' said Iyer. The MSLTA president and AITA Secretary Bharat Oza said: "The popular perception is that we do only tournaments and coaching programmes. We have gone beyond that; we have taken tennis to 26 districts."