Indian tennis star Rohan Bopanna has blamed the system for not producing quality players and demanded more tournaments in the country itself. Bopanna, who had bad outings in both the categories (men's and mixed doubles) in the ongoing Australia Open at Melbourne, also said the country needs to have more academies and strong grassroots programmes to produce more tennis players.
"We dont have system in place to generate that many players. And not only the system, but we need to have tournaments in India. We have only one ATP tournament and two challengers in India which is not enough. If you look at Europe or USA, they have 25 to 30 weeks of just tournaments alone which makes a difference," Bopanna told IANS.
"Tennis is an expensive sport, so to travel constantly week in and week out is tough. If each state in India has one challenger tournament, then you can travel only in India and make international points and that way we can constantly build a number of athletes and raise their rankings," he added.
"First, we have to start with the system then with tournaments then obviously to have good academies in place. So that entire system, once that comes into play, we will have more players coming out of it."
Bopanna, who had paired up with Zhaoxuan Yang, went down 6-3, 3-6, 6-10 to Robert Farah and Anna-Lena Groenefeld in the opening match of the mixed doubles category at the Australian Open.
In the men's doubles category, Bopanna paired up with fellow Indian Divij Sharan and lost his opening round match to the Spanish pair of Pablo CarreĂ±o Busta and Guillermo GarcĂa-LĂłpez.
Divij is a left-handed player and Bopanna had paired up with him for the first time in a Grand Slam. They had won the Maharashtra Open but could not continue the momentum in the first Grand Slam of the year.
"Nothing went wrong in this tournament. I have to give credit to the opponents, who are playing in this circuit for such a long time, so they are more experienced than us," Bopanna said.
"Yes, we were seeded higher but if you look at the experience in the Grand Slams, our opponents were more experienced than us.
For me, playing with a left-hander is something new this time and it takes time to build a partnership and thatâ€™s what we are working on as a team," he added.
India will host Italy on grass in the qualifiers for the Davis Cup in Kolkata next month. Taking about the tie, Bopanna said the tie against Italy will be tough but the new format might help India.
According to the new rules, the tie has been cut from three days to two and each rubber will be decided over three sets, down from the earlier five.
"The Davis cup tie is very, very tough tie because the Italians have four or five players in the top 100 which makes a big difference, while we don't have anyone currently. Yes, after this week, Prajnesh (Gunneswaran) might come into the top 100 but apart from this, they still have a lot more top players," he said.
"So, we are surely going to have a tough tie against them but having the new format of best of three sets, I think we do have a chance."
(Gaurav Sharma can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)