India has enough money for tennis but AITA has no will: Karti

India has enough money for tennis but AITA has no will: Karti
Tamil Nadu Tennis Association Vice President Karti Chidambaram says raising money for tennis players is not a problem in India provided AITA shows the will even though he admitted that cricket is the only "commercially viable" sport in the country. Karti, chairman of the organising committee for the ongoing Chennai Open, said if India does not have quality singles players, it is because they are lost in transition due to lack of support from the All India Tennis Association (AITA). Karti was sacked from the post of Vice President by AITA citing conflict of interest in 2014.

"I don't believe that this is a poor country and we can't have funds for the players. How much money you are talking about, maximum three crores a year for six people. It's half a million dollars. You think this country can't have this money for these guys. The will is not there. People are raising money for temples and festivals," Karti told PTI in an interview. The son of former finance minister P Chidambaram said he has a vision for India's elite players, which if implemented, can do wonders for the Indian tennis.

Karti says the top 5-6 players such as Yuki Bhambri, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal, Dhakshineshwar Suresh and Nitin Sinha should be supported to travel with a common coach and trainer. They need to play 26 tournaments, out of which at least 18 are abroad, train for 20 weeks and have six weeks of rest in a year. According to him, all this can be done in Rs three crore. Karti said if AITA can use its influence and create a "development fund" of Rs 50 crore, it can do wonders to the game in the country.

"We should raise 50 crore as a corpus, put it in a government bank, it will give you 8 per cent interest, 4 crore a year. In 10 years, if we don't produce players, return this money. Let us raise a tennis bond, go to 50 companies and ask for one crore each. Tell all these (state) Associations to raise one crore each. Ask all these office-bearers. "You give bonus to the players if they perform. When Ramkumar broke into top-200, I gave him the money, you crack 150, I will give you more money, you crack 100, you will get more money."

Karti argued that there was no use giving some money to many players. Instead, supporting the elite players with all the resources will make more impact. "Yuki Bhambri was junior world number one. Why we have not helped him. Why we have not given him a travelling coach? All he needed was 25000-30000 dollars. You have to back your best players and that is why we have supported Ramkumar. Instead of giving little bit to many players, you back the guy who has best potential.

"We are sending Dhakshineshwar (national U-16 champion) to Spain for training. From all India perspective, we need to back our six best players, including under-16 and under-18. "Our best players need to play abroad. Put all your resources behind these players. AITA is a closed shop, same office-bearers in all these Associations. They must have a vision. I am very clear in TNTA. We are finding boys here and there, we look after them."

When reminded that AITA does its bit by organising tournaments, Karti said it may have its own merits but the need of the hour is different. He also cited example of how badminton is making a mark now in India. "What is the use of tournaments. You need to have Indians playing in Grand Slams, competing on showcourts and that match should be televised Live if you want the sport to grow. Why badminton is growing because people are watching Saina and Sindhu playing at big stage. You run tournaments, it's great but you need to support your elite."

He also highlighted how difficult it is to raise money. "No sport is commercially viable in India except cricket. You need to have people with good will to bring in the money. That is why associations should have politicians to patronise the sport to pump in the money. "I wrote to 50 top businesswomen who figured in Business Today to support Karman Thandi and Snehadevi Reddy. I got only one reply. When Sumit Nagal won junior Wimbledon, it was a big news.

"At that time Deepali from Well Spun Industries gave interviews, saying her company is a winner in Wimbledon since they supply towels for the tournament. I wrote to Deepali, will you consider, supporting Sumit. I did not get even a reply. Can't they give 25 lakhs to Sumit Nagal." When told that AITA may face similar problems, he said, "It's different if Karti approaches them or a Yashwant Sinha, who was finance minister." Karti said if India does not have good singles players, it is because they are lost in transition for the want of support.

"Can the AITA say, these are the junior champions in the last 20 years and we have done this for them. Indian players also take a little longer to mature, specially when they are between 18-24, we need to look after them. Has AITA done that? You need to give them a budget. "But there are not many Indian coaches who can take a player from junior to next level. A coach should be dedicated for only 4-5 players and travel with them. This is the formula. Tell me one player here (Chennai Open) who has come without a coach. In international tennis, you need to travel with your coach."

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