It was a whopper of a weekend for India at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, with India’s players, the old warhorses and an exciting young talent winning three Wimbledon doubles titles. There was 42-year-old veteran Leander Paes winning his fifth Wimbledon doubles title alongside Martina Hingis in the mixed doubles final. Hingis, also captured the women’s doubles crown with India’s Sania Mirza. To put the icing on the tennis cake, Sumit Nagal (17) of India with partner Vietnam’s Nam Hoang Ly won the boys’ doubles title.
It is a hat-trick that puts a smile on Indian faces everywhere and warms the hearts of tennis fans in the country. It is extra special coming on that most iconic of turfs, the grass of Wimbledon. The titles should prove inspirational for the younger set of tennis players in the country, spurring them on to bigger and better things on the state or national circuit.
Yet, tennis officials must now spread the dragnet further, in order to unearth more tennis talent. While Paes and Mirza are still flying the tricolour, for how long are these warhorses going to shoulder the burden for the country? There has to be consistent, concerted effort to start a conveyor belt of tennis talent, unearthed from the smaller parts of India where there is sure to be a talent trove. Since tennis is an expensive sport, it is usually the urban kids that are roped into programmes and have access to clubs with courts. Yet, if the tennis authorities widen their search, they can find talent in smaller towns and villages, potential that may wither away because of the expense and lack of opportunity.
While there are sporadic programmes to nurture junior players, the officials must now put their foot on the pedal, and, riding on these victories with aggressive blood-them-young schemes. Let us capitalize on the momentum and actually have roadmaps to create champions for the future. Dedicated searching, a wide net, and an unerring eye to spot that fire and skill to go with it, plus of course govt support at the junior level is the way forward. Game, set and match India.