Indian tennis has an unprecedented depth: Mahesh Bhupathi
Davis Cup non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi on Tuesday said Indian tennis has an unprecedented depth in its talent pool and it's headed in the right direction.
"The depth we have today we have never had. Prajnesh, Yuki, Ram and many more right behind them are doing well. India hasn't had this kind of talent pool before in the men's team," Bhupathi said at a KIA Motors event where 10 young tennis fans of the country were selected as ball kids for the Australian Open in January.
For the first time, India has three men in the top-150 in the world rankings. Prajnesh Gunneswaran is the highest ranked Indian just outside the top-100 at 104, followed by Ramkumar Ramanathan at 133 and Yuki Bhambri at 137.
"In the women's team, Harman and Ankita have made a nice run in towards the last part of the season. The results are very positive," Bhupathi added.
Ankita Raina ranked 213 in the world, and world number 218 Karman Thandi won two back-to-back titles recently. They first clinched their career's maiden WTA doubles title in Taipei before uniting to win the Pune Open.
Bhupathi also said investment from the corporate sector was required in Indian tennis.
"For any sport, creating a culture in India comes from corporate support and we have seen that with all the medallist who has been supported by an OGQ or a JSW," he said.
The four-time men's doubles Grand Slam winner also said initiatives like the one taken by Kia Motors help in promoting a tennis culture in the country.
Five kids from Delhi and one each from Mumbai, Chandigarh, Haryana, Hyderabad and Lucknow, including four girls, have been selected to represent India as the Official Kia Ball Kids for the Australian Open 2019.
Bhupathi played a key role in shortlisting 100 boys and girls across the country, before taking up the mantle of mentoring them.
The initiative brought to India for the first time, witnessed staggering participation, with over 2,000 young tennis enthusiasts from across the country taking part.
The kids selected were selected are: Ankit Pillania (St Thomas School, Bahadurgarh), Jennika Jaison (St Joseph School, Mumbai), Sarthak Gandhi (Strawberry Fields High School, Chandigarh), M Varshith Kumar Reddy (St. John's High School, Hyderabad), Naman Mehta (LA Martiniere Boys, Lucknow).
The first set of trials were conducted across four metros -- Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. They were put through five rounds of tests, including Rolling the Ball, Speed and Agility test, Spider Drill, Throwing the Ball and Communication skills.
(With inputs from agencies.)