New Delhi, Sep 22 (IANS): Somdev Devvarman, a former Indian professional tennis player, believes that the current system in the country requires upgradation as tennis is an expensive sport and aspiring players unquestionably require assistance to thrive.
Devvarman's statement was prompted by an IANS query regarding India's highest-ranked men's singles player, Sumit Nagal, who recently disclosed his financial difficulties and expressed regret over the insufficiency of both financial backing and proper guidance for players.
A day after Nagal's heartfelt confession, Gatorade, a brand of sports-themed beverage and food products, has decided to support the tennis player by signing a three-year deal with him.
"What you can take away from what Sumit said is that the system needs an upgrade at some point. Whether you look at it from the player's angle, whether you look at it in my view, grassroots, tournament wise, tournament structure, coach development, player development, spreading the game, making it more accessible. I think all of that needs an upgrade," Devvaraman told IANS in a Zoom interaction.
Devvarman highlights that Nagal has a significant opportunity to achieve a top hundred ranking next year. He acknowledged that while the 26-year-old desires assistance and sponsorship, the primary focus should be on achieving success in the sport.
"From the players, especially the junior ones, the up-and-coming ones, tennis is an expensive sport and they do certainly need help. In Sumit's case, obviously... he's got an opportunity to break the top hundred next year. I think that the focus needs to be there, whether or not he gets help.
"Of course, would he like to get help? Would he like to get sponsors? Yes, there's no question about it. but he's kind of been in this situation for long enough. He's not young and up-and-comer anymore. He's in his mid-twenties, he knows, what it takes to succeed.
"He's had a fair level of success and also we're playing a sport. When you're talking about sports like badminton or wrestling or boxing or, amateur boxing track and field, so many of these sports, they actually don't have a whole lot of money," the Padma Shri awardee said.
"Tennis is different in that sense. Don't get me wrong, the players in tennis especially have opportunities at one level. At another level, there needs to be an upgrade in development. There needs to be an upgrade in the system and certainly for coaching development. And then, having clear pathways to what it takes to be successful on the ATP or the WTA tour," he added.
When asked who will be the surprising element and singles discipline at the Asian games, Devvaraman banks on Nagal and said "a bronze medal is certainly within grasp".
"In singles, we have to rely on Sumit. He's the best player in the country. He's just won two Davis Cups rubbers for India, both light rubbers. It's the first time he's done that. He is by far playing the best tennis for any male right now any of the men's players. So, yeah, I think it's a no-brainer when it comes to singles.
"Can Sumit medal? Yes, he can. I mean, it was slightly different last year when Prajnesh was in the mix. Unfortunately, he's injured now. But yes, Sumit would be the favourite in the men's singles," the 38-year-old said.
The former player said Indian ace Rohan Bopanna would be the "best shot In the doubles".
"Rohan (Bopanna) is playing fantastic tennis, he is in the top 10. He usually likes to play with solid returners. So, I expect him to play with Yuki. But that's a very, very good chance to win a gold over there. I think it's our best shot. Mixed doubles again, Rohan and whoever he picks to play with. They will have a very, very strong chance of winning a medal," Devvarman said.
The extensive coverage for the continental sporting spectacle -- Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games will be broadcast LIVE on Sony Sports Ten 1, Sony Sports Ten 2, Sony Sports Ten 3, Sony Sports Ten 4, and Sony Sports Ten 5 channels (SD & HD) with Hindi and English commentary for the broadcast sports.
Additionally, Indian cricket teams’ matches will have commentary in Tamil and Telugu as well. The action will also be live-streamed on its on-demand OTT platformSonyLIV.