By Sufyan Ibrahim, 20th April 2019.
It was a very dismal outing for the Indian boys and girls at the recently concluded World Junior Tennis (WJT 2019) U14 Boys and Girls event held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as well as U16 Junior Davis Cup (JDC 2019) and Junior Fed Cup (JFC 2019) held in Bangkok, Thailand – for the Asia/Oceania Zonals. Interestingly, India was supposed to host the JDC/JFC 2019 in Delhi, however, the closure of Pakistan’s air space in the aftermath of the Balakot air strikes meant that India lost the hosting rights for the event.
This, as a matter of fact, is the third consecutive year during which none of the Indian U14/U16 teams were successful to be in the top 4 of the zone and be eligible to play the WJT Finals at Prestojev, Czech Republic or the JDC/JFC Finals at Budapest, Hungary.
The last time Indian U14 girls made the WJT girls finals was in 2015 with a team comprising of – Mahak Jain, Shivani Amineni and Prinkle Singh – which had finished 10th in the World.
The last time Indian U14 boys made the WJT boys finals was in 2013 with a team comprising of – Nitin Kumar Sinha, Alex Solanki, Vasisht Vinod Cheruku – which had finished 14th in the World.
The last time Indian U16 girls made the World JFC finals was in 2016 with a team comprising of – Mahak Jain, Sathwika Sama, Shivani Amineni – which had finished 15th in the World.
The last time Indian U16 boys made the World JDC finals was in 2016 with a team comprising of – Adil Kalyanpur, Siddhant Banthia, Megh Patel – which had finished 12th in the World.
2019 WJT Boys Asia/Oceania:
Ayushman Arjeria, Yuvan Nandal, and Agriya Yadav lead by captain Narendranath Surath, were placed in pool D. After beating Syria (3-0) and Indonesia (2-1), it lost its final pool match against Thailand (1-2) to be placed 2nd in the pool and qualify for the Asia/Oceania Zonal WJT Boys quarterfinals. In the QFs, Australia blanked India (3-0). In the 5th-8th placing, India then beat Hong Kong (2-1). Qatar (which had the upcoming junior sensation Rashed Nawaf – 2019 Les Petit As finalist) defeated India (2-1). Overall, India ended in 6th position.
In the 2018 edition, India was placed at 7th position.
2019 WJT Girls Asia/Oceania:
Pari Singh, Veda Raju Prapurna, and Shruti Ahlawat lead by captain Olympian Rushmi Chakravarthi were placed in pool D. India lost (1-2) against China, (1-2) against Australia, (1-2) against Lebanon. Pari was impressive in winning all her singles matches in the league phase. India lost (0-3) against Thailand in the fight for minor placings. India defeated Indonesia (3-0) and later beat Kazakhstan (2-1) to secure the 13th position.
In the 2018 edition, India was placed at 8th position.
2019 JDC Asia/Oceania:
Ajay Malik, Divesh Gahlot, and Sushant Dabas lead by captain Sajid Lodi were seeded sixth and placed in pool D. India lost (0-3) against New Zealand, but went on to blank out Indonesia (3-0). India lost against Australia (1-2) thereby ending the hopes of a QF berth. India later defeated Philippines (3-0) and China (0-2). India ended up losing (0-2) versus Uzbekistan and finished their outing at 10th position.
In the 2018 edition, India was placed at 9th position.
2019 JFC Asia/Oceania:
Sanjana Sirimalla, Bhakti Shah, and Sudipta Senthilkumar lead by captain Namita Bal were placed in pool A. India lost (0-3) against fifth-seeded Japan, (0-3) against top-seeded Australia and (0-3) against New Zealand in the league matches. India then beat sixth-seeded Indonesia (3-0) before losing (1-2) against Malaysia. In the final match for minor placings, India defeated Sri Lanka (2-0) to finish off its campaign at 11th position.
In the 2018 edition, India was placed at 11th position.
It can be argued that the junior results seldom transform into professional results. However, it still raises a question over the upcoming prospects from the country. India has always enjoyed the status of being one of the dominant countries in the Asian circuit for a very long time. With the waning tides of Leander or Sania, will tennis in India again take a backseat? Or with gutted performances from Prajnesh/Yuki/Ram or Ankita/Karman/Pranjala, things are bound to change? Only time will tell. Let us know what are your views.