On the eve of the Doha Asian Games, the highest-ranked Indian in world tennis singles Rohan Bopanna has a valid grouse. He says lack of sponsors for players like him, who normally travel 25-30 weeks in a year, will take Indian tennis nowhere.
"Sponsorships are there for tournaments but not for players which makes it very difficult for them. You are always paying for your tickets and stay. Basically whatever you are earning you end up only in spending," the Bangalore-born Rohan told PTI in an interview from Hyderabad.
"Tennis being an individual sport needs lot of help from sponsors so that a player can get into the top 100. Once you are up there in that level you don't really need any help as the appearance money and other benefits automatically take care of the player.
"The sponsors are not aware of this. They always look into team sponsorships which is not encouraging for us," said Rohan.
Currently ranked 259 in singles and 114 in doubles, the 26-year-old Coorgi has been playing for India for the last five years.
His latest success came yesterday in Hyderabad as he helped India book their first-ever entry into the Hopman Cup at Perth later this year.
In June this year, Rohan played against the top ranked Roger Federer. In the two doubles Tour events held in Chennai and Mumbai this year the Indian Oil Corporation employee has made the finals for the last four years.
The best ever ranking enjoyed by Rohan has been 228 in singles (in April 2006) and 107 in doubles. Having played in three of the four Grand Slam qualifying tournaments, Rohan feels that in a tennis career, participating in tournaments are restricted to how much one can afford to spend.
"It's too expensive to go to Europe or US and play because of the flying costs. Being a tennis player you cannot really book on excursion fares. You have to buy normal fare tickets because you don't know when you are going to travel next. There are no fixed days as it depends on your performance in a particular tournament," said Rohan whose next stop is Doha where he will play in his second Asian Games.
Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Karan Rastogi and Harsh Mankad are the other players who will be seen in action at the Games.
"After a certain time you want to think whether you really want to continue with this. At the end of the day there are no savings as such. After travelling alone all the time, eating out all the time and playing so much, you are spending more than what you earn.
"It's a tough and lonely road. If there's a sponsor it helps to have a coach or a trainer to travel with, even for a few weeks on the Tour if not for all the 25 weeks," said Rohan who trains under Prahlad Srinath.
Rohan is only hoping that things would improve for him in the near future.
"I've been hoping for a long time that some day I will get a sponsor to travel. It will certainly help me to better my game by 30 per cent and thus improve my ranking. Because that's a big burden taken off my shoulders," he said.