Enrico Piperno, who was also India’s Fed Cup coach says, lack of funding, support and infrastructure will cease creation of a top-50 player
India's former Davis Cup and Fed Cup coach Enrico Piperno feels it is nearly impossible for the country's tennis players to make the world's top-50 as there is neither funding nor infrastructure to produce bankable talent.
"It is almost impossible now (to have a top-50 player), the closest being Somdev (Devvarman) who was ranked 62nd. The reason is, where is the support, where is the funding? Where is the infrastructure in place? Where are the kids to bank on?" he told PTI in Bengaluru on Saturday.
He was in the city to announce the launch of a Sports Management Programme in collaboration with Shri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara Institute for Management Development and the Centre of Sports and Management Studies.
"I am based in Kolkata. Imagine, in the month of April. How much can I make it, my training and practice? There is no indoor facility. There is no weather control facility.
Everything is done outdoors. How much can you do?" he asked.
"Just compare the way it is taken in Australia and see what we have in Patiala, the 1960s kind of systems. You can't blame the athletes. We perform less in the competitions," he added.
However, Piperno feels things are changing slowly with the entry of private players.
"The Tennis trusts here and there. The Jindal Trust, they are providing the athletes good facilities. Those things are helping," he said.
"The government is still in the belief that the travel ticket in Air India means everything that is required to promote sports," he said.
Piperno said even the doubles scene does not look bright for India.
"See, Leander (Paes) came into the picture. Then came Mahesh (Bhupathi), and then Rohan (Bopanna). Once Rohan goes, we have few youngsters, hanging around the top-100. To break into the top is really tough. I don't see anyone at present," he said.
Piperno also said a lot of importance should be accorded to grooming youngsters, who are aged between 17 and 22.
"We have many coaches to coach children below 16 and 17. Actually, 17 to 22 is the very crucial age. This is the time they break into international sports. We miss many of our children at this age.
"In general, coaching has improved a lot. It is much better than when I was playing tennis. 17 to 21 or 22 is the age where we should give lots of importance to coaching. Here we do not have lot many coaches," he said.
"There is a mushrooming of academies all over urban India where it is fashionable to play tennis and unfortunately anyone and everyone thinks himself to be a tennis coach, but to correct that anyone who run their own program should be certified.
"I would like to see the coaches not only coach them, they should travel with them, and guide them, mentor them. Everything seems to be very commercial now. All this is not just coaching," he added.
Image (bottom, left): A video grab of former Davis Cup and Fed Cup captain Enrico Piperno