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Tennis no longer a simple game

Tennis has changed drastically over the years and today, nothing describes it better than physical fitness. With the dawn of the philosophy ‘an athlete first and a player second’, coaching methods have also undergone a change.

sports Updated: Oct 22, 2011 01:16 IST
Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Tennis has changed drastically over the years and today, nothing describes it better than physical fitness. With the dawn of the philosophy ‘an athlete first and a player second’, coaching methods have also undergone a change.


“Today, we have a game-based approach unlike the yesteryears,” is what coach Sanjay Poddar had to say. “Indian coaches are aware of newer techniques thanks to workshops and the International Tennis Federation website. In fact, with the game becoming more physical, aspects like mental, technical and nutrition too have become important.”

Aditya Sachdeva agrees. “Techniques are still the same. However, the approach has become more holistic. Today, a coach must be aware of all aspects, not simply on how to hit the ball,” said the coach, who keeps himself updated by traveling to Spain.

Better fitness
Going by technique, an Indian junior is at par with his European counterparts. However, with the game becoming physically tougher, it’s fitness which pulls him down. The same is with nutritional values. With the world’s top players following a strict diet regime, Indian players and coaches have woken up to the fact that one can’t get by with only eating carbohydrates.

“A fitness training programme has been lacking in India,” says Nandal Bal. Recently, such a programme has started. “We are currently offering a beginners’ level programme in Mumbai while the advanced level will be held next year,” said Hemant Bendre, who is part of the ITF coaches’ committee. Another aspect which has gained recognition is recovery. “If one doesn’t know how to recover for the next match, it doesn’t matter how well you played the previous day,” explained Bendre.

More academies
With coaching becoming lucrative, academies are mushrooming. Youngsters who wish to stay connected with the game try their hand at coaching. However, coaching and playing are opposite ends of the spectrum. As former national coach Akhtar Ali put it, “An educated coach must pass on information to the inexperienced ones. If knowledge is hogged by an elite few, the state of Indian tennis will never improve.”

Another problem is the lack of specialisation. “There are only a handful of coaches in India who can train juniors and seniors,” said Bal.

When bright juniors graduate to the senior level, specialised coaches must take over from there to ensure the player reaches an international level.

“Unless coaches get disciplined and earn respect, it will be very difficult for youngsters to set standards,” said former Davis Cupper Naresh Kumar.

There’s little doubt that Indian coaching has changed and tennis standards have improved, but there is still a long way to go.