By Sandip Sikdar
NEW DELHI– Olympic bronze medallist and technical director of French Tennis Federation (FFT) Arnaud di Pasquale believes that India must organise more small and medium level International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments to give the sport a boost in the country.
The FFT organises the lone clay court Major, the French Open, one of the world’s four biggest tennis tournaments.
“What India needs to do is to host several small or middle level ITF tournaments which will generate a large pool of players and improve the quality as well. From there India can take it forward and host bigger tournaments. India had a Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tournament in Hyderabad too. Unfortunately, it was closed down,” di Pasquale told IANS in a telephonic interview from Paris.
“But the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) event — Chennai Open — gives great visibility. Even though it is a 250-point tournament, it is a break from the regular window, happening at the start of the year, giving many opportunities. Several top players, including Rafael Nadal, have also played in it.”
The FFT is returning to India for the second year with its ‘Rendez-Vous a Roland-Garros’ programme which provides an opportunity to earn a wildcard entry to players here to enter the Junior French Open. The Under-18 tournament will be held here in February 2016. The FFT, in association with the All India Tennis Association (AITA), is laying two new clay courts at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) to promote the red soil.
“FFT wants to develop tennis at the grassroot level in India and especially on red clay. We want the best training for the players. We promote red clay because it improves a player both physically and mentally, improvises shot making among many other things,” the 36-year-old said.
“India has good players who have a lot of potential, but as of now, there are not many clay courts in the country. They have had good results but have not done that well on red clay and French Open. The basics are missing. That’s why we are really interested in raising the level of Indian tennis.”
Shifting the gear to international tennis, the Frenchman, who is famous for beating Roger Federer in the 2000 Sydney Olympics bronze medal playoff, said he never imagined the Swiss legend would end up winning 17 Majors.
“Roger was very young when I beat him. I never expected he would go on to win 17 Grand Slam titles. But I could see his talent and the potential he possessed. What lacked was his attitude. At some crucial points he would let it go,” said the retired player.
“But one day it all changed when his attitude changed. After that he became the classic Federer that we all know. He has become a very different player than the guy I played in 2000.”
Di Pasquale is also confident that Nadal, despite his poor run and injuries in 2015, will win another French Open.
“I am 100 percent sure that Nadal will go on to win the French Open again. He has truly been an amazing player and lately we have seen him improve a lot, especially at the ATP World Tour Finals in London. He is getting better and stronger,” said di Pasquale.
“In adverse situations, he always brings out the best in him, which is the mark of a champion. His performance has gone down but I will back him to win at least one more time here, if not more.”