Raging Covid-19 pandemic has left many a lower-ranked Tennis Players in India unemployed and has pushed them to brinks of penury. This situation is almost contrary to the popular notion of tennis being a game of sponsorship and high prize money.
Struggle Of Indian Pros
With the rise in uncertainty due to increasing cases of coronavirus amidst lockdown, Kunal Anand, India no. 16, is waiting anxiously for the tournaments to resume. He is dependent on his family for support and with the suspension of the tour till July. He sounded pessimistic while speaking to Kyrosports about the resumption of tournaments. “Tennis wouldn’t even resume till October” he lamented.
This is the condition of most of the players in India who compete to earn a living. Amidst the outbreak of COVID-19, the tennis tournaments are suspended and as of now, they shall only resume in July.
The 27-year-old, Kunal Anand, was lucky to have his calendar free of outstation tournaments at this time, thus he shall bear no hassle of cancellations. But the suspension of the tour has left him in a fix. Kunal is one of India’s best players ranked 16 in the country.
He also competes in leagues held in Mizoram, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai, that add extra money to his pocket. The other players who earned a living by playing tournaments, week after week, are undergoing similar troubles.
“As of now, the AITA or ITF, have not made any announcements to help players affected due to the cancellation of tournaments”Kunal Anand
The Condition In India
The COVID-19 has hit hardest the players who do not enjoy sponsorships or make only enough to make ends meet. But the passion and love for the sport, even accompanied by the hardships, has been worth for those who are dedicated towards the sport.
Tennis in India has been rising, with tournaments such as “Road to Wimbledon”, introduced to give junior players a chance to play at Wimbledon’s Junior category. Unfortunately, the turn in events shall make young players consider twice before choosing an expensive sport like tennis as an option. The uncertainty in the lives of sports persons has been highlighted by the situation prevailing across the globe.
The ranking points have been frozen, unlike in normal circumstances where points are allowed to fall when the player earns no points.
But the ATP Tour’s 132nd Prajnsesh Gunneshwaran, felt that even in the existing environment tennis players were still in a better position than many others. “Being laid off in a regular job means having to look for work. In our profession we don’t have that issue” he told Reuters.
Mahesh Bhupati Addresses The Troubles
On Friday, Mahesh Bhupati spoke to Daily Mail and expressed his opinions as tennis players have been unemployed due to the pandemic. “Most tennis players survive almost on a weekly basis. Players ranked even in the top 50 or 60 last it out from pay cheque to pay cheque. There is absolutely no comfort zone. Tennis is a very expensive sport in every sense and if you add travel costs, and what they pay to their support staff, it is a big burden,” said Bhupathi.
Thus, it is obvious that every player today, who made a living by playing matches is either seeking help from parents, or waiting for the organizations, to help them out.
Citing the example of Sumit Nagal, Bhupathi made a surprising revelation. “At least twice on his career in recent times, Sumit has come down to the last 500 dollars. It was only because of some financial support coming in suddenly he has been able to survive and continue to do his best,” claimed Bhupathi.
“Such is the situation, a player like Sumit Nagal cannot even take to coaching for sustenance as clubs are shut. There are hundreds of players out there in the circuit like Sumit. I am praying the situation improves fast,” he said.
The Tennis Community Around The World
While tennis remains a sport of utmost grit, players spend thousands on coaching. Some other with better-off financial conditions train abroad in academies owned by Nick Bollettieri and Patrick Mouratoglou. However in the current situations, players are staying home and doing their best to maintain their strength and endurance.
Tennis community has recently seen Patrick Mouratoglou address the same problem, via an Instagram post.
Sofia Shapatava started a petition promoting the support of tennis professionals who do are struggling.
” There are around 2241 people who have already signed the petition. Top 50 players in both the men’s and women’s rankings are 100 people … but there are 3,000 players, men and women combined, in the ranking. If 50% of tennis players quit [because] of this I don’t think tennis will survive. […] While these top players are great for the promotion of the sport, there are still 96.5% of players that also build it up. It’s also very important. It’s something that has to exist to support the sport.” She said.