The All India Tennis Association announced the launch of its National Tennis Academy at Gurgaon with the start of a Super Series tournament for under-14 and under-18 boys and girls on Wednesday.
The academy, situated on the Gurgaon-Pataudi highway, is spread over five-and-half acres of barren land but pleasantly away from the maddening crowd of Delhi's concrete jungle.
There was a buzz at the venue though the sun was blazing down. Enthusiastic boys and girls in their teens chased balls down-the-lines and returned them with a skid. Off the court, parents egged their wards on with words of encouragements.
Though construction is still underway, there are already nine well laid-out clay courts and 20 trainess have been shortlisted for the first batch. Upon completion, the facility will have four more synthetic courts and be home to more than 80 aspiring youngsters.
With library, swimming pool, gymnasium, playing area for other sports and an academics facility in nearby schools, the NTA will be a true residential training complex.
"We wanted to just get the academy started and did not want to wait for full completion of the work," said Anil Khanna, secretary general of the AITA, while explaining the 'soft launch' of the NTA.
The academy is supported by the leading sports goods manufactureres Adidas, Nike and Reebok.
The AITA is also engaged in talks with the Confederation of Indian Industry and corporate houses for sponsorship of its trainees, who will have to shell out Rs 250,000 per year for the training.
"The AITA is confident that it will be able to convince the companies to at least be part sponsors, funding two or three players at a time," Khanna said.
The target age-group players of the NTA will be between 11 and 15 years although those between 16 and 19, who have shown promise, will also be selected to polish their skills.
Besides, the NTA will also play host to players from neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bangladesh.
"We want the NTA to be a Centre for Excellence," Khanna said.
Karthikeyan, who was with the Bhupathi Tennis Academy in Bangalore, will be the chief coach. There will also be visiting coaches from abroad who will hold month-long camps twice or thrice a year.
Sunil Yajaman, AITA Development Officer, is the project supervisor while Suman Kapoor the honorary director of the academy.
Short-listed trainees for the first batch:
Boys: Somdev Dev Varman, Karan Rastogi, Rupesh Roy, Sanam K Singh, Sumit Prakash Gupta, Kaushik Dass, Divij Sharan, Chatwinder Singh, Arnav Jain, Agnel Gladwin and Chandan Shaolin.
Girls: Isha Lakhani, Megha Vakharia, G K Shwetha, E Ashmita, Daksha Mulay, V Pooja Shri, Ankita Bhambri, Sanaa Bhambri, Kartiki Bhat and Sandhya Nagaraj.