A club where tennis is pure

Encouraging sport

The Australian open is on. A lad who made Mysore Tennis Club (MTC) proud, Suraj R Prabhod, played in the qualifying rounds in this grand slam event recently. N Niranjan Nikam visits MTC to trace the path of this unique club which is the cheapest tennis facility in the world.

“If I had lived anywhere else, I would not have played tennis at all. I have only fond memories of MTC. When ever I played matches in Bangalore, the support I would get from the members who would travel all the way to watch me was truly encouraging,” said former Davis Cup player Prahalad Srinath.

This is the rich history that Mysore Tennis Club has, where it must be recorded in the beginning itself, only tennis is played here. It has never succumbed to the temptations of opening itself to any other activity. Where else would one get to play in super luxury having ball boys to pick the balls, three changes of tennis balls a week, children below the age of ten being allowed to play free (except paying admission fees), is all a dream. “You can categorically say that it is the cheapest tennis club in the world for the kind of facilities, support and the atmosphere one gets,” exclaimed Srinath.

The club was started by that firebrand thinker late B A Belliappa and two other tennis lovers R Pattabhi Ramiya and late M H Raja Rao in August 1969, behind the Chamarajapuram Railway station, on a land leased from the Mysore City Corporation, said secretary H L Srinivas Urs.

Supporters

“Even in bad times we have managed to run the club without increasing the fees. KSLTA president S M Krishna, Dr M M Ramaswamy, Anil Lad, Jagannath Shenoy of Ganesh Beedies, Bhoruka Aluminium and Siddarth of Café Coffee day chain are a few of the donors and the result is there for all to see. If it was not for these synthetic courts, many players would not have got the confidence to perform well in many ITF tournaments” said the president of MTC Dr N M Srinivas to City Herald.

There were only two clay courts and about 30 to 40 members. The kind of fillip it got in the beginning years was phenomenal. One of the greatest tennis players India has produced, Vijay Amritraj, played here in the early seventies. A string of international players have graced the MTC and it is a veritable who is who. The players included Ramesh Krishnan, Akthar Ali, Zeeshan Ali, Shashi Menon, Royappa and Karnataka players like Priyadarshi, Vasanth Madhav. 

Synthetic courts

The club which had just four clay courts, today looks like any international club with five synthetic courts, two cement courts and one clay court. There are nearly 500 members including the life members, resident members and juniors. “Dattatreya was the first president. We have also produced national champion N P Raghuveer. Davis Cupper Rohan Bopanna  as a young boy would accompany Belliappa to practise here,” said Urs.

The MTC is not just a tennis club which has nurtured tennis players. There are many who have gone on to become coaches abroad or have started their own academies.

Raghuveer, Mohit Vijay Kumar, Jayadev, Jagadish, Srinath and Neeth Devaiah are a few who have made a mark as coaches. The kind of support junior players get here is phenomenal.

With the synthetic courts the maintenance part has come down and this helps in the promising juniors like Varunya, Vasisht, Prabodh, Ashika D Urs, Likitha D Devaraj and Shruti Devraj to hone their skills.

“One of the most promising youngsters is Dhruthi who has won seven junior ITF tournaments and is right now playing in Kolkata and has reached the quarter finals,” said Dr Srinivas. It is also a great sight to see many veterans (including Nagaraj who consistently wins veteran single tournaments) over the years coming to the club religiously in the mornings or evenings to play a game or two of tennis.

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