New Delhi: India's tennis players -- both current and former -- are not just counting financial losses as they cope with the fallout of the Covid19 pandemic. What worries them equally is the time lost and a future which is hazy right now.
The closure of the Pro Tour means that doubles exponent Purav Raja is set to lose at least $50,000 in this lockdown period, according to his own assessment.
Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Divij Sharan can't exactly tell how much they would lose but considering the fact that they are consistently in contention to be in Grand Slam main draws, the massive financial hit is not difficult to assess.
Former Davis Cup captain and one of the greatest Indian tennis players Mahesh Bhupathi says the need of the hour is to "keep the ecosystem alive".
"It has to be kept alive. The players, coaches, markers even ball boys in clubs. Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and FFT (French Tennis Federation) have announced packages but they have lots of money," Bhupathi told PTI.
This is exactly what Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali, Fed Cup captain Vishal Uppal and another India coach Ashutosh Singh are doing.
They all run academies and have not stopped the salaries of their respective coaches, taking a hit that runs into lakhs. There are 3827 certified coaches in India and around 10,000 Assistant coaches. There would be thousands others who are not registered with AITA but attached with at least 2000 academies across the country.
"Your values reflect in crisis. We are tennis servants. We have been associated with the game for so long. Definitely, it's a hit that we are taking but you can't ditch people who have been loyal to you," said Ashutosh, who runs a private academy at DLTA.
Ashutosh has five coaches and has committed to pay their salary without any cut.
Similarly, Zeeshan who runs an academy in Bengaluru with a staff of 12, has been paying salaries to his coaches.
Uppal, who has a staff of 14, pays about Rs 4.5 lakh a month in salaries. He says they have not stopped payments but fears once the lockdown is over, parents may not send all the kids back.
The players feel the national federation now must stand up to offer support.
"The long shutdown will definitely impact all of us. We have a limited career span as a sportsperson, so this break definitely takes away from that. A lot of the national federations have pledged support to their players," Divij Sharan told PTI from England.
"AITA has said it will formulate a plan to support the Indian players. We will all be waiting to hear more about this and hope it can alleviate some of the financial pressure that the players are facing."...