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Team Tennis has an ace up its sleeve

For Jaideep Bhatia, the 34-year-old director of Team Tennis, it was his passion for tennis that compelled him to return home and give something back to the sport he loves, reports Deepika Sharma.

sports Updated: Feb 22, 2008 22:32 IST
Deepika Sharma

It is not easy to give up something you've grown up being passionate about. You want to cling on to that one thing that sets your pulse racing. Success and failure seem irrelevant.

For Jaideep Bhatia, the 34-year-old director of Team Tennis, it was his passion for tennis that compelled him to return home and give something back to the sport he loves.

Bhatia, an MBA in International Business from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was earning big bucks in New York with PricewaterhouseCoopers. He was living the American Dream when, in 2001, a phone call from former India Davis Cupper Shyam Minotra altered the course of his life.

"I was doing very well in the US," Bhatia says. "One day, Minotra called and asked me to come back. He asked me if I would like to do something for tennis along with the other guys in India."

That call, Bhatia says, was reason enough for him to leave his job, return home and set up Team Tennis along with the established coach Aditya Sachdeva and Minotra.

You might find this somewhat difficult to believe. Why would anyone quit a stable, lucrative job for something with uncertain prospects?

Bhatia admits the three are financially well off and that theirs wasn't a painful sacrifice where they had to adopt a life hardship for the sake of their passion.

"Initially we weren't getting any salaries," Bhatia says. "While it was tough, we were able to manage because of our families."

Team Tennis also has a revenue model. They generate money through coaching fees.

Minotra recalls the day he spoke to Bhatia.

"I had called Jaideep in the US to tell him that we were forming Team Tennis and it would be great if he joined us. It was a great concept and I'm glad we are heading in the right direction."

Where exactly is it heading?

A private body that has 36 centres, including 11 schools spread all over, Team Tennis was formed in 2003. The unique factor about it is the fact that they have been working hard at promoting the sport in schools, local clubs, community centres and local parks. They have produced talented players like the Australian Open junior semifinalist Yuki Bhambri, his sisters Sanaa and Ankita and the promising Tara Iyer.

Bhatia played many state and national level tournaments and was also Hansraj College's tennis captain.

"I played many tournaments till 18," he said. "But I didn't achieve much as a player. I started coaching before deciding to study further. I went to the US to pursue MBA but my love for tennis did not die."

The other director of Team Tennis, Sachdeva, like Bhatia, is also a man on a mission. As a coach Sachdeva has helped build many a career.

"He is at the courts from six in the morning to 6 in the evening," says the parent of one of Sachdeva's students. "He motivates and helps my child in every way possible."

Sachdeva says tennis is his lifeline.

"I don't think beyond tennis," he says. "I just want to help these kids grow into world-class players. We are trying our best to give them the best facilities."

It doesn't matter what you have and what you don't. What matters is how much you are ready give. In a country where only a handful of champions are produced in tennis, the work really has to start from the base.

Team Tennis is not just formed by ambitious and passionate men, but those who are daring to make a difference.