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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bhambri Copes with India's Hopes


Yuki Bhambri of India reached the semifinals of the Australian Open Junior Championships last month and the 15-year-old has received quite a bit of press since returning home. Here is one such story from the India Times. Aside from the obvious contrast in attention to the other losing semifinalist, Ryan Harrsion of the U.S. (I found virtually nothing written about Harrison, which indicates yet again how unimportant tennis is here), what struck me about all this attention is how India, like Great Britain, is desperate for a male tennis hero to challenge for Grand Slam titles.

The recent national uproar over India's major tennis star Sania Mirza's actions (Bonnie Ford has a thorough synopsis of her tribulations at espn.com), serves as an indicator of the difficulties that accompany sports fame in India, to the point that Mirza has announced she will not play there. Bhambri would not face some of these issues simply because he is not female, but it has to make any athlete wonder if they should be careful what they wish for.

In addition to an interview with Bhambri, the Indian Tennis Blog has a list of all ATP, WTA and ITF players from that country, and Mirza is the only singles players inside the top 150 in the pro ranks. Like Harrison, Bernard Tomic and Filip Krajinovic, Bhambri is represented by IMG, so expectations are much higher for him than they were for say, Somdev Devvarman, although Devvarman had won a Futures event before he came to the U.S. to attend the University of Virginia. For the blog's interview of Devvarman, click here.

Bhambri and Devvarman have obviously selected different routes for their tennis careers, routes based on their individual circumstances, options and personalities. I hope that dealing with the visibility that comes with winning is equally stress-free for both of them.

14 comments:

florida said...

Disagree...Harrison got a lot of press on the USTA site including an video interview and this site as well. Also, most of the top juniors, including Americans (Williams, Jenkins, Buchanan, Krischek) didn't play. Not sure what else could/should have been written. Was surprised that more was not written about Williams when he was the youngest US player ever to have won a futures. We really dont want to put these kids on a pedistal until they have the real results. Bhambri is probably getting press as he is the only one from his country in the top 90.

curious said...

This does not pertain to this post, but today was signing day for college football. Does anybody know whether Andy Magee of California signed a LOI for football? Thanks

devilliersb said...

Hi Colette, Check out coretennis.com, some intersting stats Brian

AndrewD said...

Collette,

If you think that press attention given to Indian tennis players and the "national uproar" provoked by their actions is any indication that "India, like Great Britain, is desperate for a male tennis hero to challenge for Grand Slam titles" then you're adding 2 and 2 together and getting 5. The reality is that, while the media may wish to paint a different story (that is their job), you only have to go into the streets and speak to the people themselves to realise that, for the overwhelming majority of Indians, tennis is a complete and utter non-event. Yes, they are very proud of national accomplishments, but the actual sport of tennis itself (played by only a select part of the population) is just a blip on the radar. Cricket is their king and tennis is less than an afterthought. Of course, you could say the same thing about the English. The average Englishman or woman cares more about the national soccer team than producing a Wimbledon champion.

As to the attention Sania Mirza and other Indian tennis players garner, it is infinitesimal in comparison to the adulation, scrutiny and pressure heaped upon that nation's cricketers. Those sportsmen have managed, for the past 70-odd years , to handle the "difficulties that accompany sports fame in India" without ever feeling the need to withdraw their presence from the country. Things might be somewhat different from Mirza as a female. However, the difference in national expectations for a tennis player as compared to a cricketer is, essentially, the difference between a crack in the wall and the Grand Canyon.

Pat Harrison said...

The point Colette was trying to make is how much press Bhambri got all over his country and that they are trying to make him a national hero on the rise. The press Ryan got was strictly on tennis websites and not full blown national coverage and nobody over here is trying to anoint him as a national savior for tennis or hero in this country. I didn't have a problem with the press Ryan did or didn't get. I think Colette was just trying to point out the obvious way it was magnified over in India. The added press often times means added pressure unless the parents and coach keep a good handle on the kids and keep them grounded and don't let them get to full of themselves. I don't think that will be a problem for Bhambri as he seems like a well rounded kid and I know his coach Adi Sachdeva will help him deal with it as well. He worked with me for a year in Louisiana before returning to India to start his on Academy and was a great teacher. Also a lot of the top juniors skip Wimbeldon and the French Open as well as it does not agree with every players game style since they are on grass and red clay. We semmed to have heard these same comments about how weak Japan was when Ryan won over there and that Tulsa was much tougher when it was going on at the same time. Wil Spencer won Tulsa with wins over Buchanan and Jenkins and then lost to Ryan at the Orange Bowl so lets not make comments diminishing our American kids accomplishments.( I know you'll say you weren't but pointing out who wasn't there is exactly that) They can all beat each other on a given day and they have. What all of these kids have done is pretty good and it is interesting to follow their career paths and how they go about it. I don't know anyone in the tennis community that didn't read or hear about Williams winning a Futures tournament last year and rightfully so as that was a great accomplishment. Maybe if all the Americans would start rowing in the same direction instead of pulling against each other we could progress alot faster.

florida said...

To Pat,

Agree with you that these kids are all competitive with each other but to put any one on a pedistal....too soon. That's all. Even with all the ress Bhambri the chances he gets in the top 50 are just that 50/50.

AndrewD said...

Pat,

The point was poorly made and needed to be corrected. We do ourselves a great disservice when we jump to conclusions about a people based on their media coverage, especially when dealing with countries that, unlike ours, do not have easy access to mass communications (or, on a national level, high literacy rates). You end up talking about a nation when you should only be talking about a small percentage, albeit generally affluent, segment of it.

florida said...

The one thing that we do in the US and in many countries for that matter is glorify professional sports figures to the point of some becoming national obsessions. We are very lucky that obsession has not dropped down to juniors. I have no idea who the most promising junior (high school) football, basketball, baseball, soccer players are etc...and that's a good thing. So Collette, I really disagreed with your point that the success of these young athletes should be followed in the mainstream media. What will make tennis a more popular sport is more top US players and a developemnt program to produce them. Also, the sport is too expensive for many famalies with athletic kids to pursue, way to expensive, and that's a problem.

facts said...

Great comments "Florida"...again, in no way do I try and reduce the hard work and effort by the children of the wealthy, or tennis instructors..but for the non-tennis playing parents, it is not easy to guide, and develop a child who is eager, and perhaps even gifted.
If someone on this board were to say or "think", "so..where are these so called gifted players we are missing out on"..well that statement would border on arrogance. In Basketball, if you have a 36 inch vertical, and are dunking over people in 8th grade..you are getting noticed, and its not going to cost you your life savings to try and have that child reach their potential. In Baseball, you throw the ball 90+, its the same deal. But in Tennis, if you have racquet head speed like Roddick, and feet like Coria, it is much more of a struggle to reach the elite levels, without coaching and $$. Richard Williams,Mike Agassi were obviously innovative, but they are not the norm..and MANY factors fell into place for them. I complain on this board because something should be done to move the financial aspects of tennis, more to the levels of other team sports. But addmitedly, I have no answer, other than to ask the USTA to increase their favorites, and to really make an effort to search for young talent..and expand the search to the middle class!

floridafan said...

To facts and the rest. I agree with all of your comments about discovering talent and spending money on developing it. The truth is that we do have more talent in the US than anywhere, and the USTA is doing what it can to develop it. Look at our '93 kids like Egger, McCall, Newman and Simon. They hit the fur off the ball, are quick footed, and have no fear of attacking the net. These are the players of the next generation, and they come from all economic backgrounds. The common ground is that they have a good support group and the vision of the USTA. Of course it could be better, but let's realize that this type of talent is rare, and not the norm. The USTA is doing all that it can to help these kids and others, and I think they are moving in the right direction in exposing them to more international events and competition. The reality is that it takes more than a federation to fund the talent. Personally, I am excited about the future of tennis in the US, and I have been around the sport for many years.

facts said...

"Florida fan"..I do not know the economic backrounds of the kids you have mentioned, but I would venture to say that to get to the point where they are at right now, with "93" birth year, the usta was not responsible for these kids from a young age..(8-10), where the many hours of private lessons, travel to obtain the rankings, various junior team/expenses etc..were all on the parents dime..all to get them to the point where they are now..(and of course the hard work done by the kids!) These kids you mention either had wealthy parents, or fortunate coaching/training oppurtunities. Is that wrong? Of course not!! I just feel it is unrealistic to believe that other young kids are not out there that could stand to benefit from either $$, or a Dad, or Uncle that knows tennis, or the extreme set of circumstances that all need to fall into place to reach greatness without those two factors..ie, an innovative non-tennis playing parent who perhaps sacrifices the rest of the family and other siblings just to nurture and develop the tennis playing child..or maybe a caring individual outside the family that takes an interest without trying to break the familys bank.

Without these factors, it is extremely unlikely that a tennis PRO will be developed.

The four players you mention 100% deserve to be where they are, and to get any usta support that is offered.

But some other "93" (just an example) are perhaps playing baseball, or languishing in the lower rankings because they did not get the oppurtunities afforded the others when they were younger, because of the expense/time/family situation/lack of knowledge of the parents.

I have seen in the past at Carson (west coast usta training facility) where the usta has attempted to bring in young talent "as they see it", but from what I have seen, it is mostly minority. Again, nothing wrong with that, and I applaud their efforts, but to think that among the middle class, throughout the country, there are not MORE 9-12 year olds with potential, that do not have rankings because of reasons listed above..again its not realistic.

juju fish said...

i don't think that egger hits a very big ball from the back. But he does have better volleys than the other kids.

florida said...

To facts,

Agree that tennis at the high level is very expensive and even for my son at the national level to compete to play college D1 w/ all the sectional and national tournaments plus lessons/drill groups I was spending maybe $25,000 a year: $300 months lessons, $800 monthly drill group/ $500 to $2000 month for tournaments and more expensive in the summer. His grandparents thought we were crazy and would not help out as their other grandkids were playing team sports at a fraction of the cost. Also, as tennis not a team sport it took him out of the main-steam at school and you have to deal with all the garbage of junior tennis…cheating, interfering parents etc.. Not to mention every major family we spent at a tournament and our family separated. If I had to do it again he would have played baseball, Soccer or (egads) football. It would have palled in expense and been a lot more fun.

To floridafan: Maybe the USTA is “doing all it can” for the kids you mentioned but at least in my section I can list many juniors with equally promising results/potential that the USTA ignores. Again, its so tough to make the leap to pro the USTA needs to support as many kids with potential, not just a hand picked few but that wont change because the USTA does not seek out talent once it has its picks.

facts said...

"Florida"..your statements on your experience in junior tennis, including your comments regarding how your parents/in-laws felt about it, all sounds eerily familiar. Do you think you and I are alone in this regard? And do you think that some of the kids of parents such as us DID NOT (and not implying ours DID!) have not only physical potential in this sport, but mental strength, and enthusiasm to match?

In a nutshell: Take Baron Davis (exceptional athletic point guard for Golden State Warriors). If he had been raised by lets say, "Bill Walton"..(I know, color issue!:)..I would bet that "Baron Walton" would still be posterizing opponants even after two major knee operations.

What if Davis played and liked tennis as a youngster? Does anybody see the difference between him being raised by the real Mr and Mrs Davis, as opposed to perhaps Mr Harrison? Said this multiple times, and I will stress this again. The kids who are children of tennis experts, or wealthy should never be demeaned in ANY way. I just feel it is without question that there are others out there that could benefit from some type of assistance..

"Handouts"?..Nope. But not blind arrogance that others are not out there.