Bengaluru, 5 December 2018: Arjuna awardee and star tennis player Rohan Bopanna and former Indian star and celebrated coach Zeeshan Ali, a Dhyanchand aw
ardee, unveiled the Tabebuia Open Trophy in the presence of Sunil Jain, the brain behind the Indian Wheelchair Tennis Tour at the KSLTA Stadium here Wednesday.
“It is heartening to see the Wheelchair tennis grow by the year. The amount of talent aand passiondisplayed by these tennis players is inspiring and AITA has recognised their efforts and is willing to support it whole-heartedly,” said Zeeshan Ali. “I feel honoured to be associated with the sport and we have good players like Shekar Veeraswamy who has improved a lot. I would like to see more and more players take to the tour,” said Rohan Bopanna.
The tournament organised by Indian Wheelchair Tennis Tour has attracted 42 entries for the first time in India in different categories of Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles matches as the tourney is being organised in association with KSLTA under the aegis of All India Tennis Association (AITA).
IWTT is the only recognised body in India that conducts AITA-ranked wheelchair tennis tournament. Since its inception in December 2016, IWTT has organised six tournaments and the increasing popularity resulted in more number of entries for the Bangalore edition aptly named as Tabebuia Open as the tennis is played at Cubbon Park in the season that Tabebuias bloom adjacent to the courts in all colour and pomp. IWTT had conducted two tournaments each in Bangalore and Chennai, and this year took the tour to Hyderabad too. IWTT is using the power of sport to bring about a personal transformation and social inclusion for the specially abled athletes.
Although wheelchair tennis was invented in the 70s and all four major Grand Slams have wheelchair tennis integrated into them, India, has not shown any concerted effort to develop the game in a competitive manner. IWTT was formed to create a vibrant wheelchair tennis culture in India. The aim of IWTT is to put Indian wheelchair tennis players on the world map by 2022.
IWTT focuses on three aspects for wheelchair tennis development in India (1) Tournaments (2) Grassroots development – The First Serve is a workshop designed to introduce children and adults to the game of wheelchair tennis. IWTT has conducted one workshop for adults in Mumbai and one for children in Bangalore (3) Top player development – IWTT is currently supporting India’s No.1 wheelchair tennis player, Shekar Veeraswamy to participate in international tournaments. This year Shekar participated in 2 ITF Future Series tournament in Malaysia and Bangkok and his ranking has gone up by 118 slots to 301.
The special tournament gets its name from the Tabebuia, a vibrant flower that blooms across the city of Bengaluru during winter. Entry to the Tabebuia Open is free on all days of the tournament. Matches take place from 9 to 4.30 pm at KSLTA stadium, Cubbon Park from December 6 to 9 to witness a unique and inspiring battle between some of the finest wheelchair tennis players in the country.
Rohan Bopanna, French Open Mixed Doubles Winner and Davis Cup member said: “I would like to congratulate the IWTT on their commendable contribution to the development of wheelchair tennis in the country. The passion and effort on display at the Tabebuia Open is truly moving. It is indeed a great delight and privilege to be associated with this tournament.”
IWTT is the brainchild of Sunil Jain, Chairman IWTT and Founder of Astha. IWTT is a division of Astha, a non-profit organization based in Bangalore working to empower people with physical disabilities. At the start of the 3rd tournament of the year, he said “We are seeing more and more people who are getting interested in this sport. It is these tournaments that help the existing players to aim for excellence in their sport and at the same time motivate more specially abled people to take this sport to lead a healthy and confident life.”