Bhupathi’s Apollo Mission 2018 in financial trouble | sports | Hindustan Times
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Bhupathi’s Apollo Mission 2018 in financial trouble

The Apollo Mission 2018 tennis programme, initiated with tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi and the largest corporate involvement outside cricket, is in serious financial trouble, reports Sukhwant Basra.

sports Updated: Nov 12, 2009 01:11 IST
Sukhwant Basra
Mahesh Bhupathi

The Apollo Mission 2018 tennis programme, initiated with tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi and the largest corporate involvement outside cricket, is in serious financial trouble.

Launched in May 2007 with the aim of producing an Indian singles Grand Slam champion by 2018, the Mission had enrolled 34 trainees from eight trials conducted over two years across India. Now, that pool has been pruned and players served letters which suggest that the times of free training may be coming to an end.

Apollo had committed to investing Rs 100 crore over 10 years for grooming world-beaters.

A company statement to HT did not shed much light on why this is being done. "Apollo Tyres is currently re-evaluating the Mission 2018 tennis programme, initiated two years back.

In this regard, we have recently informed all the Mission 2018 parents that Apollo has begun this process but has not yet arrived at a final decision on the kind of role it will play in the future…"

Bhupathi, a multiple Grand Slam winner, was more candid: "Apollo has decided to step back a bit. We have been looking for some other sponsor to come in and take over. Neeraj (Kanwar, MD, Apollo Tyres) has been personally canvassing for other partners," he said.

Asked as to whether the corpus of Rs 100 crore would still be devoted to junior player development, Bhupathi said: "If we continue, that money will happen. But not with Apollo."

Bhupathi though expressed faith in Kanwar. "Neeraj stays committed to the vision of the Mission. He has guaranteed we will be able to raise the funds."

Asked just why the dream project is on the verge of being shelved, Bhupathi citied the global economic recession as the moot problem.

"There is a global recession and the auto industry has been badly hit. Apollo exports tyres and the company's revenues have been affected. I can't blame them for looking to use the funds for their business."

Parents of the Mission trainees that HT contacted confirmed that they have been paying for their wards' travel over the past two months.

Earlier, it was an all-expenses-paid deal. Even now, the players are hosted as Bhupathi's training facility on the outskirts of Bangalore free of charge. No one though is clear just how long the free training will continue.