ALL INDIA Tennis Association (AITA) executive vice president Anil K Khanna has said that the present structure of international tennis goes against the players who are ranked below 200.
Khanna, who was in the City on Saturday to attend AITA annual general meeting, told reporters, “We are now taking up this matter with the ATP and will urge them to make a separate Asian circuit and a separate European circuit and so on”. He said once that happens, top 10 Asian players can be invited for Grand Slam events and likewise players from every continent would get a chance to participate.
Lamenting that issues like academics and alternative career opportunities were preventing the Asian players from becoming professionals, Khanna said steps have to be taken to make tennis financially viable for the players.
Khanna said only three categories of people are making money in world tennis—the ATP itself, the organisers of the events, and the top 20 players.
“The problem with this system is that players who are ranked below end up paying out of their own pockets when they participate in an oversees tour”. Giving an example, he said, “In the Chennai Open, Ralph Nadal asked for 200,000 US dollars as appearance fee, but no other player got this benefit”. “Why should Asia make financial contribution when 95 percent prize money goes to players of other continents”, he wondered.
The tennis structure, Khanna said, should be redesigned on the lines of golf. “The total tennis money worldwide is one-tenth of golf, so there is really something wrong”, he said. “We have to make efforts to get corporate sponsorship and support for tennis to create top-level players. Our target is to take two Indian players to top 200 by end of 2007”, he said.
Khanna said Asian Hopman Cup tournament has greatly benefited the Indian tennis as was evident from the recent performances of Sania Mirza and Rohan Boppana. “India now has the second best women’s team in Asia, which is a very big stride forward.” Khanna said the Indo-Pak series has also helped to boost the confidence of Indian players like Karan Rastogi who played a fantasist match in Chennai Open.
“Karan could have defeated Nadal had he come to the net more often”, he said. Khanna informed that India is number one in terms of WTA ranking in men’s tennis in Asia having 40 ranked players. In women’s tennis, India is third after Japan and China.