New Delhi: Former India tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi fired verbal volleys on Saturday as he rued the lack of tennis culture in the country. The current Davis Cup non-playing captain said it was one of the reasons India hasn’t unearthed its Grand Slam champion in singles yet.
“We all dream to see a Grand Slam singles champion from India, but that’s not possible as India doesn’t have a tennis culture,” Bhupathi said on the sidelines of Kia Australian Ballkids International Programme at the R.K. Khanna Stadium here.
“Sania (Mirza) created a revolution 10 years ago in India. She broke all the boundaries. But what happened after that? We don’t have five Sanias. Tennis is not a priority in our country. Today, badminton is way ahead because of Sindhu, Saina and many others who followed suit. So you need to have multiple success stories to push people who want to take up this game. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened in tennis. The whole system is lacking,” he added.
In February 2019, India will host Italy on grass at the Calcutta South Club in the Davis Cup qualifier. It will be an uphill task, especially against the likes of World no. 13 Fabio Fognini. Mahesh, however, feels India can bring down the biggies.
“Since we are playing at home, we have a chance against them. We are playing in Kol-kata on grass that will be an advantage. I think the grass is going to be the difference between the two sides,” Bhupathi added.
When asked about the team combination for the Italy tie, Bhupathi quipped: “Obviously, we will select a team that can beat Italy.”
The multiple Grand Slam champion was in the city to mentor 10 ballkids, from the 100 shortlisted ones across the country, who will fly to Melbourne for the upcoming Australian Open.
“I think it’s just a baby step, which is going to create a culture in India. This year, we had 500-600 kids, next year we will probably have 1000-plus kids. It’s not just a trip to Melbourne, but also a great opportunity to share the court with some of the greatest tennis players,” the 44-year-old said.