"I think we have a great chance of Rohan winning his first Olympic medal" - Bengaluru Open Tournament Director Sunil Yajaman

KSLTA Tournament Director Sunil Yajaman
KSLTA Tournament Director Sunil Yajaman

The anticipation builds for the Paris Olympics 2024 and the spotlight shines brightly on India's tennis circuit. There were some pivotal transformations and remarkable performances that have been worth noticing.

Sportskeeda caught up with Sunil Yajaman, the esteemed Tournament Director of the Bengaluru Open, as he shares exclusive insights into India's burgeoning tennis landscape, with a focus on the nation's prospects at the upcoming Olympics.

In between athletic excellence and strategic planning, he reveals the importance of initiatives, partnerships, and aspirations driving Karnataka's role as a burgeoning tennis hub.

We also get a glimpse into Yajaman's perspectives, illuminating India's path toward Olympic glory and the pivotal role of Bengaluru in shaping the country's tennis narrative.

Q: Can you please share a few words on Rohan Bhopana's performance at the Australian Open?

Sunil Yajaman: Rohan (Bopanna) had an amazing run at this stage of his career, I think it's been a great performance. We kind of knew that he was capable of winning a grand slam doubles title.

I think all of us who knew him well and were waiting for that to happen and even two years ago, I remember he was talking about quitting coaching, his profession as the top player, and things like that but I think something stopped him. He's come back, and we knew somehow we had faith and trust that he would do it. We had the belief, and I'm sure that he has that even better. It's amazing for Indian tennis.

Q: What do you think are India's chances at the Paris Olympics?

Sunil Yajaman: It's going to be good because Rohan (Bopanna) is playing at the best of his career. It would be interesting to see who is going to partner with him (Rohan).

Secondly, we have so many players in India playing doubles and some of them are doing well. I won't be surprised if we have another doubles pair from India. I think we have a great chance of Rohan winning his first Olympic medal.

Q: How do you think India's team tennis has changed in the last few years and where do you think we will be in the next ten years?

Sunil Yajaman: There was a kind of lull last few years, but now I think with Rohan (Bopanna) at his peak, he's just going to push so many other players to do well. Ramkumar has done well, and with so many doubles players in the top hundred, I think this is only going to get better.

Thanks to the All India Tennis Association, we've kind of had nearly about 25 weeks of ITF features in India this year, and this is only going to bear the fruit of success.

I think over the next 10 years if we need to have a target of having at least five players in the top hundred, out of which somebody will move up to the top 40 or 30, and for them, I would say it's more important that they have more features in India.

I think at least 25 weeks for men and 25 weeks for women and with that, at least about eight to ten challenger-level tournaments, with about five or six for men and five or six for women. I see no reason why we'll not have quite a few top hundred players.

Q: What are Karnataka’s plans for the upcoming years across all age group players?

Sunil Yajaman: We want to conduct as many tournaments as we can and have already conducted about ten or more international tournaments in Karnataka.

The best part is we have taken a lot of these events to smaller tier-two, and tier-three cities like Darwha, Kalaburagi, and Mandya. The players go there and there's a lot of boost for tennis there, for the sport a lot of kids are playing.

We would love to take, especially the ITF future events to these smaller towns where it only contributes towards the growth and development of tennis in the whole state.

We would love to have all the districts in Karnataka have a tennis facility that can host an ideal event. Kids are watching the players, there's coaching starting there, and some kids from some small town, because the small town kids are a little hungrier and they can work harder.

I think conducting these tournaments is going to be a priority for us. Also, grassroots tennis is developing and we want the coaches to improve, for which we'll be having coaches' education. We want to create a lot more officials here. It's all about creating a good ecosystem for industry which will help the nation in that regard.

Q: How do you see Karnataka growing as a tennis hub?

Sunil Yajaman: Karnataka is already a tennis hub. I don't see any other state having about 11 districts that are capable of hosting or which have hosted events at an international level.

We have a lot of academies and a lot of good coaches, and hopefully, we also have some land allotted by the American government, which we are on the verge of competing with formalities, and bigger issues, and once that happens, then we will be having one of the most amazing state of art tennis facility here in Bengaluru, which is capable of hosting much bigger events and a lot more events.

We have a great team at KSLTA headed by tennis professionals, passionate people who are either into politics bureaucracy, or business. We're all interested in focusing on the growth of tennis in the state.

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