By: Eastern Eye Staff
Sania Mirza has said that India will struggle to produce a world-class singles player because there is no “system in place”.
The six-time Grand Slam champion reached the final of the Australian Open on Sunday (January 31) in the mixed doubles event, but she and her partner Ivan Dodig went down 6-2, 6-4 to Abigail Spears and Juan Sebastian Cabal.
Doubles stars like Mirza, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi have combined for an amazing 31 major titles down the years, and Rohan Bopanna has also made an impact in the team game.
Mirza, a former top 30 singles player herself, believes Indian tennis chiefs need to do more to replicate those statistics in the one-on-one format.
“We don’t really have a system in place,” she said when quizzed on the issue in Melbourne. “Even with all the talent, it’s incredible that we’ve had so many top doubles players because we’re coming from a background of not knowing anything, and we’re just going by trial and error.
“If there is a good 10-year-old, nothing happens [for them]. We don’t have somewhere for when kids say: ‘Where do I go now? What do I do?’
“When you see an LTA (the governing body in Britain) or USTA (United States Tennis Association), there is always a system in place. We don’t have that; nobody knows where to go. I don’t even know who to contact.”
One of India’s few individual players, Somdev Devvarman, retired at just 31 last month. He accused the All India Tennis Association (AITA) of being “incompetent” in an open letter.
Mirza revealed the cost of developing a young prospect is expensive too, and her family once had to raise over $150,000 (£120,000) to help her keep hold of her dream.
“People don’t earn that in a lifetime,” she explained. “To try to raise that for a year without getting anything in return in juniors or ITF [events] is not easy.
“Mahesh and Leander have been around for so long, but after that, it’s just been Rohan. I’m trying to do what I can, Mahesh is trying, but there is only so much an individual can do. You do need the backing of a federation or a system.”
“I’ve got a couple of kids at my academy who are amazing. I’m going to try to help them, but I can’t do it alone. It’s beyond expensive.”