Nishanth Repello, 15- years-old, idolises Nadal and pursues tennis full time at the Bangalore Tennis Academy (BTA) in JP Nagar. He is currently ranked 28 in the under-16 at the national level. Playing tennis since he was nine, Nishanth is being schooled through National Institute of Open Schooling. He says it gives him the flexibility to travel widely for tournaments and still not miss out on education. "I will be travelling to Mysore and Chandigarh to play in National Level tennis tournaments soon but my studies won’t be affected", says Nishanth.
It is a different stroke for Abhishek Govardhan, 17, a twelfth standard student of National Public School Indiranagar started playing tennis at the age of 8 and stopped at 15 to prepare for IIT-JEE. "I trained at Kinesis Academy in Whitefield. I started playing for fun but started playing competitively and played at various state-level tournaments but Iwas more inclined towards academics and I did not have time for both so I stopped playing tennis", says Abhishek.
Abhishek and Nishanth have made different choices, even as they represent the leading edge of tennis fever catching up in Bengaluru. With tennis academies mushrooming in several parts of the city, more and more people are taking up the sport. These no-frills academies with clay courts built on empty plots, give a chance for anyone interested in taking up the sport or just spending an evening playing the game.
Mushrooming tennis academies
Chandrashekhar B S, who runs Sri Sri Tennis Academy which has three branches in Bangalore says, that adults and children mainly take up the sport to maintain fitness and have some fun instead of sitting in front of the television or the computer in their free time.
Chandrashekhar, 30, started learning tennis under Praveen K, who coaches now at Bhupathi Tennis Village. He played at various national level tournaments before setting up his own courts three years ago. "Most children are from the age group of six to ten. Fitness is the major concern for most parents and playing competitively comes at a later stage and depends on a lot of factors like talent and the financial status of the parents", he adds.
His academy in HSR Layout coaches more than a hundred kids and over 40 adults. He says that tennis is the perfect game to develop a healthy physique and being an individual game keeps the players on their toes and is a thrill to play as well.
"Parents also want their children to play because at some point they would have wanted to play but couldn’t. So they want to see their children play", opines Ronnie Sehgal, who heads Bulldog Tennis Academy off of Kankapura Road. Sehgal’s passion for setting up sport training centres extends beyond Bangalore into other parts of the state.
Shrikanth D, 26, who started Champions Tennis Academy near Sarjapur Main Road, Bellandur, three months ago, says that rising numbers of coaching centres is a positive thing as it fosters competition among coaches to provide quality coaching. A native of Bijapur, he started playing tennis only after coming moving to Bangalore five years ago. He says that there were only handful academies in the city whereas the numbers have shot up since then.
"There are now six academies within a few kilometre radius of mine. There are hundreds of them in Bangalore. There is fierce competition among each of us to provide the best coaching and keep the fees at a competitive price", he says.
"Due to a lot of people working in IT companies, they are affluent enough to enroll their children to learn tennis. They choose tennis because it is an individual game and with minimal politics involved, talent determines success".
He adds that recent success of Indian tennis players like Somdev Devvarman and Sania Mirza and also international stars like Rafael Nadal has contributed substantially to influence parents and children alike to take up the sport.
Tennis is going to the people
Two key factors which have contributed in the spurt of tennis academies are distance and affordability. They are ideally located in the heart of residential areas. Tennis academies such as the ones mentioned above have varying fee slabs for different programmes, with the minimum being Rs 1,500 for twelve classes a month.
Leela Ashok, a housewife, lives in HSR Layout. A mother of two daughters Sanjana, 10 and Vaishnavi, 6, she says reasonable fees and the fact that it was so close to home encouraged her to enroll her daughters in the programme. "My daughters have been playing tennis for almost a year and not having to spend extravagant sums was a vital factor in taking up the sport." She adds that instead of spending hours in front of the television or the computer, playing tennis has helped them stay fit and stay sharp. "Fitness is currently our first priority but if they have the talent then we will definitely encourage them to play competitively", says Leela.
‘Bigger not always the best’
Although there are very well-known tennis academies like the Bhupathi Tennis Village or the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association, Nishanth says he chose to go to Bangalore Tennis Academy because of the coach, Rajesh Pathania. "He is one of the few International Tennis Federation- Level 2 tennis coaches in the state and that is more important than the name of an academy. The fee for training professionally is the same in most of the academies, big or small."
Abhishek says it all comes down to the focus that coaches of any academy gives to its students. "As long as the coach is willing to guide you, it does not matter whether it’s a big or a small academy", says Abhishek. ⊕