New Delhi: Before worrying about grooming young players who can make it to the Indian Davis Cup squad, the country needs to lay the basic groundwork required for younger tennis players to flourish, says Saketh Myneni.
The 32-year-old most recently turned out for the Indian team that played Pakistan in their Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie of the Davis Cup. It came after a prolonged off court drama that included the expulsion of Mahesh Bhupathi as non-playing captain. Leander Paes, 46, was also part of the squad and admitted later that younger players should have pushed him out by now.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Tennis Premier League, Myneni says that there is no system in the first place for players to come through.
"From the beginning I've seen people talk about it but I've never seen any action," he told IANS. "There should be a base from where players can come up. It should be like a cycle.
"All the players who have come up so far have all done it on their own. Everyone has their own stories. Some great stories to listen to but none of them were done in a simple way," he said.
The Arjuna Award winner believes that efforts should be made to help young players to get good sponsorship deals that will come in handy when they go abroad for tournaments.
"Especially for juniors you should be thinking about money. Sponsorship needs to be brought in to nurture them as future champions.
"We are lacking in infrastructure (when) compared to European, US or Australian standards. We still need proper facilities that have everything or facilities at a short distance from each other. Most foreign countries have all of it in close proximity but it's tough in India due to the population and geography. As a parent it's difficult to take your kid 15 km one side for something and then 15 km another side for something else. It's just a barrier that we have and we need to find solutions to it. I won't say it is anybody's fault but it has to be done the right way," he said.
Myneni said that the problems ailing the sport in India is also part of a larger lack of sporting culture in the country which needs to be developed.
"Take inputs from players who have done it before. Because we go to the US and we see the sports culture there, I don't think we have anything close to it here. Again, I have heard a lot of talk in terms of that but the backing up part is never the same thing," he said.
Myneni says that younger players should be able to reap better benefits for achievements in their fledgling careers which will provide motivation to push forward.
"They always reward the players who have achieved something but you have to do that from a young age," he said.
Off-court issues have often grabbed as much headlines, if not more, than results of the players as far as Indian tennis is concerned. "Sumit (Nagal) has done fantastic this year, so has Prajnesh (Gunneswaran). Yuki (Bhambri) has done it before. The results have to speak more than the other things," he said.
"I know that the Davis Cup is big, we are playing it only three times a year. But we didn't need the unnecessary off-court issues. Focus should be more on what happens in the match," he said.
Some of the traditional powerhouses of the Davis Cup include a number of high profile players who tend to prioritise individual tournaments and appear for the national team only for decisive matches. Myneni however believes that it is down to the individual and emulating that attitude won't necessarily be a catalyst for Indian tennis players to perform better.
"It all depends on their priorities. For us the priority has been representing the country with the utmost respect and passion and we do it with integrity. Wearing the Indian jersey is an absolute honour, that's something that we all grew up with. It might be different for people from other countries. It all depends upon the relations that the players have with their people, the team, their federations; there are a lot of factors," he said.
With a doubles ranking of 197, Myneni is well out of contention to compete at the 2020 Australian Open.
"I have nothing till mid-January as of now. I'll do some off-season and am planning on playing a challenger in January before the Indian challenger comes in February. My ranking went down so I won't be able to compete in the Australian Open. So my off season starts next week," he said.(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed - IANS)