Pune: The Indian tennis players are a jittery lot these days as the number of tournaments -- both Challengers and Futures - has fallen to alarming levels, making their life tougher on an already demanding circuit.
In the 2015 season, India had hosted 19 men's ITF Futures and 16 women's ITF events but this year the men have got only six tournaments so far while the ongoing $10,000 event in Pune is only the third tournament of the season for women.
India hosted four ATP Challengers in 2015, but this season only two have been held - Delhi Open and Pune Challenger - in eight months.
It has severely impacted the progress of players who are outside top-200 in singles. Almost every player competing on the circuit is deeply concerned since in the absence of home events, they are forced to travel outside India for competitions, burning a big hole in their pocket.
"It played a major role financially. Without any sponsor and coming from a middle class family it was difficult for me. Playing leagues in Germany in the summer helped me a bit as I used it (the money) for travelling," says N Sriram Balaji.
Newly crowned national champion Vishnu Vardhan said over the years the country has seen an increase in number of tournaments but the reduction this year has made the job tough.
"To improve my ranking I had to travel to Egypt, Astana, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe and Thailand this year and I still couldn't have a full schedule of tournaments this year. It did workout expensive for me," he said.
"If we had a similar schedule as last year, I could have expected to finish the year with a higher ranking. Hope we have more tournaments next year so that I can move up in rankings," he added.
Vijay Sundar Prashanth also lamented the "bad situation".
"It makes it tougher for Indians to go up the rankings. I am sure state associations and national association has enough money to conduct tournaments."
The women are worried too. Country's number one singles player Ankita Raina said the situation is bad not only in India but all over the world.
"In India the prize money has come down by almost 40 percent but if you add Asian Tennis Tournament (ATT) prize money then it has come down by 25-30 percent," she said referring to the new initiative launched by the Asian Tennis Federation.
The ATT has two events -- $5000 and $7000 -- and in both, they have a separate $2000 allowance for the players, to be distributed equally to all 16 main draw players.
While playing on the ATT, if a player loses even in the first rounds in the two $5000 events, the player earns a minimum of $650 while a first round loser in $10,000 ITF Futures gets only $146.
The title winner at $10000 ITF Future gets $1224 as prize purse and if a player wins two ATT events of $5000 each, he earns $2050. He is earning $826 more.
However, ATT is not a solution according to Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan since it does not offer points and only money.
"It's clear that tournaments in India aren't based on the development of players to compete in Grand Slams or make top-100. Secondary tours have taken priority and while it is good for certain players it isn't the path for players wish to play on the ATP World Tour," he feels.
New national champion Riya Bhatia says, "the chances of winning the events and getting points is easier in India than abroad.
"We play our best in our own conditions. It's difficult to save points outside the country," the 19-year-old from Delhi said.
Rishika Sunkara says, "It's been a rough year for most of us and we hope to get back more tournaments next year making our journey easier.
Published Date: Oct 25, 2016 16:38 PM | Updated Date: Oct 25, 2016 16:38 PM