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'I am an auto driver, now I am also a tennis player'

August 15, 2019 09:41 IST

Participants at the Indian Wheelchair Tennis Tour held in Chennai did not let adversity affect their outlook on life.

A Ganesh Nadar presents some of their sunshine stories.

Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj for Rediff.com.

The SDAT tennis stadium in Nungambakkam,  in the heart of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, is huge. The Chennai Open that used to see some of the biggest names in International Tennis was held here for many years.

In the second week of August 2019, from the 7th to 10th, the Indian Wheelchair Tennis Tour held an open tournament here with over 40 participants, which includes eight women.

 

IWTT chairman and chartered accountant Sunil Jain, 44, has this to say about the tournament.

"I have been running an NGO, Astha, for 10 years. We work with persons with disabilities in the field of higher education, election voting accessibility and sports.

"We conduct this wheelchair tennis tournament regularly and we also support one international swimmer K S Vishwas. In tennis we are involved in grass-root development which includes coaching.

"This is the 7th tournament we are conducting, and the 3rd in Chennai, we have also conducted three  in Bengaluru and one in Hyderabad.

"Astha runs on donations. The last three years we were struggling but this year a couple of big names have come forward to support us which includes Larsen and Toubro. Now all we need is media coverage and spectator support."

Prathima N  Rao, 36

Fleet co-ordinator at GVK

Top-seeded and defending champion here, the Bengaluru resident is also the poster girl for this tournament

"I started playing tennis in the year 2012. I wanted to play some game. I saw all the games that are available for us and tried a few. I tried shotput and javelin and then finally settled for tennis. 

"I practise every day and have improved my game steadily. I have won two gold medals in the India Wheelchair Tennis Tour conducted tournaments. I have represented India in International tournaments in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

"On the International circuit my best result  we reached the semi finals in doubles in Malaysia.

"My husband is very supportive and we have a 12 year old girl."

Nalina Girish, 42

LPG dealer

I started playing tennis in the year 2015. I have two children. My daughter is 21 years old and my son went to boarding school. I was feeling lonely. When I was traveling in the UK I found that there were lots of games on wheelchairs.

"When I came back I googled to see what was available here. I had time and also needed physical activity. There was athletics, swimming and tennis. I tried all the available games and liked tennis.

"I have participated in tournaments in India and Bangkok. I went to Bangkok on my own as it was an Open tournament."

K P Shetty, 27

Speaks Telugu, so others chipped in as translators

"I studied up to the pre-university level. I am not working and I live with my parents. I have been playing since 2016.

"I learnt about the game by watching Youtube and used Google to see other games. I train under Coach Kiran at the Top Spin National Academy in Bengaluru. I won the gold medal in the first national tournament I participated in.

"In all I have won three gold medals in the Nationals. I have participated in international tournaments in Thailand and Malaysia.

"In Malaysia I reached the doubles semi-final with Prathima. I will play as long as the game holds my interest.

"I will get married next year" (says this with a wide smile).

Basavaraj Kundaragi, 18

FYBcom. Is the youngest player in the tournament

"I have been playing for a year now. I chose tennis because I find it easy to play. This is my fourth tournament and my second tournament in Chennai, I have also played in Hyderabad and Bengaluru.

"I practise regularly in a club. There are two other players who practice there. I don’t have any coach but when we participate in such tournaments, the Seniors here help us, guide us to improve our game.

"I don’t do any other exercise. Playing this game is strenuous enough, it is enough exercise."

D Saravanan, 37

Business

"I am in the business of manufacture and sales of sports items like trophies and shields. I never went to school but I know everything.

"We work in a trust called Provision Asia for the last seven years. That trust conducts workshops for wheelchair tennis. I got involved and started playing. I have been playing for three years now.

"I have played in tournaments in Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai. If I get a sponsor I think I can play much better.

"I also play badminton and in athletics I throw the discus, shotput and javelin."

K Keshavan, 35

Social Worker

"I work in a Bengaluru-based NGO. I have been playing tennis for three years now. I took up tennis because I wanted to excel in something. I wanted to be famous. I wanted visibility, I wanted to be recognised when I went anywhere.

"I practise very hard, on weekdays for four hours and on weekends for six hours. I also go to the gym to exercise. I do light weights for about 45 minutes to an hour.

"On the Court we spend more energy in pushing the wheels of our chair than in hitting the ball.

"I am a regular on the IWTT tournaments."

Anil D Almeida, 40

System operator at Sansera Engineering Pvt Ltd.

"I have been playing tennis since 2006. From 2002 to 2006 I used to play badminton. In a national tennis tournament I have won a bronze medal.

"I was not getting enough courts to practise badminton so I switched to tennis, for which courts are available in Benguluru.

"The Karnataka Tennis Association was the first to start wheelchair tennis. I have taken part in tennis national events. I have won two silver medals and one bronze medal.

"I went with the national team to Bangkok and Malaysia. I won two gold medals in Bangkok and two silver medals in Malaysia.

"I play both singles and doubles. We play for fitness and also to inspire those who are sitting at home and watching us."

M Anjanappa, 30

Auto driver

"Apart from being an auto driver I am also a member of an NGO called proVision Asia. They conducted a workshop for wheelchair tennis. I attended that workshop got interested and started playing tennis.

"I have been playing for three years now. I practise for four hours on three days in a week, on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday.

"I am an auto driver and I work from 6 am to 10 pm every day. I am not married yet. I studied only up to the ninth standard. After that I was a gents tailor for a few years before I got my licence and became an auto driver.

"Now I am also a tennis player."

Shailendra Singh Rajput, 35

Runs a cyber café

"I help people fill government forms. You can also browse and scan at my café. I am from Lalitpur/Jhansi.

"I have done my B Ed. and am trying for a teaching job.

"This is my first tournament, I have been playing tennis for two months. Before that I was playing basketball for five years. I played for Uttar Pradesh state team. For two years I was the captain of that team. We played in the national tournament.

"I have also played in the India team in Nepal.

"I saw people playing tennis, liked it and so decided to play. I trained by watching Youtube and also Sunil Sir of Astha helped me.

"I play both singles and doubles." 

D Mariappan, 40

Assistant programmer, Tamil Nadu education department

"In the year 2006 the International Tennis Federation and the All India Tennis Association started wheelchair tennis in Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi and Bengaluru.

"A friend of mine used to play tennis and I always enjoyed watching him. When I came to know that there was wheelchair tennis I immediately joined.

"I practise for two hours every day in this court. This stadium has a coach for regular tennis players, he also helps us.

"In India I am ranked number 4 in singles and number 2 in doubles, my world ranking is 260. I have represented India in many tournaments including Asian games.

"I have two daughters, 6 year old Martina who plays tennis and 2 ½ half years old Monica.?

K Karthick, 35

Businessman

"I manufacture lifts. I have been participating in para sports for the past four years. I play basketball and tennis.

"I practise 4 days in a week. On work days I practise for two hours a day and on weekends for four hours.

"I have represented India in International tournaments. Last year I won one tournament in India and one in Bangladesh.

"I am married with two kids."

The tournament may not have had too many spectators but they were patiently watched by three men at all times -- a paramedic, physiotherapist and the driver. They belong to Apollo Hospital, which is one of the sponsors of this event, which had also stationed one ambulance at the venue.

A Ganesh Nadar / Rediff.com in Chennai
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