The All India Tennis Association’s plan of conducting 44 international events on the back of government support this season is unlikely to materialise with the Sports Ministry indicating that it is not keen to provide funds.
The ministry has told AITA that holding tournaments is strictly a national federation’s domain and the government can only chip in for some cases.
India’s tennis calendar has a barren look to it as ATP Challengers have vanished from it, leaving the country’s players with no Tier-II tournaments which can help them earn ranking points and money.
In 2015, India hosted four USD 50,000 Challengers and in 2016 it was reduced to two — Delhi Open and the Pune Challenger.
This season, four months have passed but the players have not got a single Challenger to compete in as the Delhi Open, which is usually held in February, has been delayed.
Only one state association — MSLTA — has committed to continue with its Challenger in Pune in October.
In the 2015 season, India had hosted 19 men’s ITF Futures and 16 women’s ITF events but last year, not event half of that could take place.
AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee had recently said that they have submitted a proposal to the government through Annual Calendar for Training and Competition (ACTC), seeking help of Rs 11 crore for hosting 44 international tournaments.
AITA was hoping that the government would chip in with this funding, while it would raise money for the rest of the cost.
However, a ministry source, who is in know of the things, said organising tournaments is a Federation’s responsibility.
“We have told them that organising such tournaments is the responsibility of the Federation and its Members and Affiliates. Government can only supplement to some extent. We can maybe help them with one big ATP tournament,” the official told PTI.
“Moreover the Federation should also work on a strong development programme, which the government would be happy to support,” the source added.
Sports Minister Vijay Goel further said that his ministry was not considering any proposal to fund tennis tournaments as claimed by AITA.
It has been an onerous task to raise sponsors for tennis events in India with hardly any corporate house coming forward to support the tournaments. To host a USD 50,000 Challenger event, a state association requires at least USD 100,000.
“We have been asking for help for the last 4 to 5 years and at last the government has agreed to support tournaments,” Chatterjee had said when quizzed about lack of tournaments in the country.
“We could not do Challengers last year because whoever ventured into Challengers lost a lot of money. They could not raise money required to host these Challengers. All over the world, it’s the government that supports these events.
“We have included Challengers in ACTC and we have told them (the government) you have to immediately give us approval because for allotment of these tournaments, you require three months’ time to apply,” he said.
As per the arrangement, the AITA has to first host tournaments and then ask for reimbursement of funds from the government to pass it on to the state associations.
AITA claims to host 855 tournaments in a year, including talent series, national series, state ranking, national ranking, men’s and ladies without any support. But it says to host international tournaments, government support is a must.
It will be extremely tough for the Indian players to go up the ranking ladder without Challengers in the country.
Players such as Ramkumar Ramanathan, Prajnesh Gunnseawaran and N Sriram Balaji need to move from the Futures level to Challengers level to make any progress.
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