The tournament to be organized by MBTA will be supported by HCL
HCL WILL SPONSOR “Inter School Tennis Challenge” a first of its kind in north India, a large-scale school-level tennis tournament byMahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academies (MBTA) to be held from July 27 -August 2, 2015 in the National Capital Region. The tournament is divided into two categories -Team Championship (for U/15 boys and girls) and Individual Championship (for U/17 boys and girls).Each school will send a maximum of 5 participants per team. The tournament will be held at DLTA Tennis Courts, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi. Based on the experience of this maiden initiative, HCL and MBTA plan to take this event to other cities across India. There won’t be any prizes, however, the winner win a one-week Schüttler Waske Tennis-University is a tennis academy located in Offenbach am Main near Frankfurt, Germany and runner up to cochin . It would be a draw of 32 or 64 depending on the turn out.
“We want many more children to play tennis to establish Tennis firmly at grassroots” …GAURAV NATEKAR
The ace tennis player of 1990s and an Arjuna Awardee (1996), who represented India in Davis Cup besides winning the doubles gold medal at Hiroshima Asian games in 1994 with Leander Peas, who is the CEO of Mahesh Bhupati Tennis Academies (MBTA), which on July 16 announced a tie-up with HCL for inter-School Tennis Chalalnge in New Delhi. He made this announcement along with Sunder Mahalingam, Chief Strategy officer, HCL Corporation. Autar Nehru discussed MBTA’s progress with Natekar on sidelines. Excerpts from the conversation
Sports is in your blood. Your father Mr Nandu Natekar, was a national champion of badminton. And you have been a tennis star. So how did MBTA happen given you have your own sports business (Natekar Sports, Pune)?
It all happened around 2006. Sania Mirza after breaking into international circuit had become a youth icon. What we couldn’t do despite all of us in Tennis for so many years, Sania did that and transcended the public perception on tennis as a popular sport. She caught the imagination of children. Mahesh (Bhupati) told me that time has come to break the ‘elitist’ notion about tennis and take it to masses. I agreed and we set up MBTA.
And since then, how has been journey like?
Really good, we have now about 25 centres and have trained over 8000 children in schools, clubs, centers and are expanding. We are also in Dubai. We have 3-tier approach. Grassroots to academies and then professional.
You are also actively pursuing schools?
Oh yes. Schools are our loved destinations. We believe that in order to achieve quality, you need a volume. So, schools are the right places to start play tennis. We teach children from age 5 for this very reason. For smallchildren, we devise half-size courts and it is really a fun experience ne And I must tell you that more and more schools are approaching us, which is a healthy sign both for MBTA and sport of Tennis.
How does your program with schools function?
We have a force of over 100 professional coaches, international curriculum, mentorships, excellent references on infrastructure and equipment etc. But how we operate is that we deploy our coaches and tennis playing training. The courts would have to be laid by schools themselves and many schools already have them. Those who don’t have can approach us and we will provide our advice. Our fee is very nominal Rs 300 a month and we need at least 300 students. We nurture students and also provide them opportunities in tournaments. Those who come up well can be coached in our centres. Schools are going to be nurseries of talent and future growth of tennis in India.
Tennis is a demanding sport, isn’t it?
To an extent because its racquet (racket) is heavy, court is bigger. So demand on body is more unlike say badminton. So, physical strength and stamina are important. But it carries all benefits that sports teach us from discipline to healthy life and a good attitude. It is going to grow and therefore there are also growing opportunities.
You have also a partnership with Kerala government through project SMIlLE. Can you share some thoughts on it?
Through the SMILE Project, MBTA is promoting the game of Tennis in Public Schools that fall under the Kerala Sports and Youth Affairs. The program is currently being conducted in three schools in Trivandrum which have been identified by the Director of Sports & Youth Affairs. The students who are part of this program come from an underprivileged background and do not have a chance to take up a sport like this under normal circumstances. These students have been regularly attending the camps that MBTA conducts across the year. They have started playing tennis for the first time last year and have already started participating in tournaments. At the 6th Terumo Penpol All Kerala Junior Tournament, students from the Kerala SMILE project won the U/14 Doubles and also the U/14 Singles Runner Up trophy.