Bengaluru: This sport was brought to India by Harry Boniface Prabhu, a quadriplegic wheelchair tennis player almost eight years after the formation of the International Wheelchair Tennis Federation.
The Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association helped Prabhu to set up the Bonfice Prabhu Wheelchair Tennis academy in 2000, which later merged with the All India Tennis Association(AITA).
Prabhu did all this to scientifically develop wheelchair tennis in India, but there is a lot to be done. There are hardly any coaching academies that teach para-sports in the country and infrastructural challenges galore.
Hence, the grassroots development of the sport is at a standstill and there is a need to promote the sport in India. For this, funds are necessary. “We need Rs 2 crore at least to provide basic facilities to train and coach wheelchair tennis players,” Indian Wheelchair Tennis Tour (IWTT) Chairman Sunil Jain told UNI here.
However, the IWTT is receiving donations from individuals and corporations such as L&T and others. “For the 6th edition of AITA Tabebuia Open Wheelchair Tennis to kickstart tomorrow, we have gotten Rs 11 to Rs 13 lakh from various corporates, including L&T. The winner will get Rs 3.5 lakh,” he said.
Wheelchair players need a platform to build professionalism, and IWTT definitely serves this purpose, Jain said.
Despite all the odds, the Indian players are not deterred from making a mark at the world stage. Among the elite list are Shilpa Puttaraju, Nalina Kempaiah, Prathima Rao and Shekar Veeraswamy.
There are more talent in the pipeline too, including the likes of Balachandar Subramanian, Karthik Karunakaran, Manojkanth Somasundaram and Madhusudan Hanumanthappa. Their stories are inspirational.
Neither the administrators are deterred. The IWTT is confident that the future of wheelchair tennis in India is bright. UNI