Tamil Nadu Tennis Association CEO Hiten Joshi did an exclusive interview with Indian Tennis Daily during the Chennai Open WTA 250 tournament that took place in September 2022. The following are a few excerpts from the same.
On journey into Sports Administration.
Hiten Joshi: It has been for a long, long time. I enjoyed playing tennis, tried my luck at tournaments, played in the Indian circuit, then went to Europe a bit and as things turned out, in 1982, I joined the Triangle Tennis Trust, the YMCA when it began. Though I finished my law education, I was fortunate enough that my father didn’t tell me to get into our own business that we had at the time.
We realised that there was an administrative part to the game where you had to conduct tournaments. If you want to showcase the player, you need a tournament. Without any tournament, there’s no fame for anybody. Whether you go for coaching or not, you can still be a great player. But without a tournament, that’s not possible.
So that’s how it all began.
On the proudest moment with TNTA.
Hiten Joshi: We have been conducting the National Junior Championships for the last 29 years and organised ATP Tour event for 21 years – the fact that they were so long is satisfactory. Whatever we’ve done – we have ensured that it continues longer term and become a part of the association. This is good for the game.
On the WTA Chennai Open being well organised.
Hiten Joshi: I think from where we were a few months ago – it was amazing. The stadium had to be renovated. The Govt and the SDAT stepped in. They did a wonderful job and now you’re seeing a fabulous tournament this week. So it’s a very proud moment for all of us.
The tennis has been great, the players have been very happy, the feedback we got from the WTA, is that it is great. On the TV, it looks great.
On what can be done differently for the next edition.
Hiten Joshi: We were a bit last minute, considering the lack of time from when it started and things had to fall in place. They finally did. But I’m sure we will be improvising on what we have done.
We have got a very novel thing going on in the city. There are 10 places where a TV screen is showing the match in various parks – Marina, Besant Nagar Beach and Natesan Park and so on and so forth. The idea came from the LED person. And we said, yes, we’ll do it. So it’s supposed to be telecast every evening at each of these parks. So I think that’s a huge thing. Especially this weekend being a Saturday and Sunday. It will be seen by everybody, you don’t have to buy a ticket. You can go to the beach to get some fresh air and if you watch some tennis, it will be very refreshing. And I think that’s great for the game, also great for the players, for people to know what’s going on. That way tennis will remain. I mean, tennis is a very popular game. But it will get more popular.
On the support from the Tamil Nadu Govt.
Hiten Joshi: Tamil Nadu Govt is our main supporter, they’ve contributed a grant of 5 crores. Plus, they’ve redone the whole stadium, new lights which were necessary. The last renovation we had was around 2017. Then there was COVID, so the maintainance took a back-seat but they managed to pull it together.
Then we have the tremendous support from our president Vijay Amritraj and the the whole council. You have got to work on the groundwork to make it fruitful, and that’s where everybody contributed.
We got the LED backboard on the main court which is a new thing. It came out very well, looking good on the TV and people are pretty impressed. If i had to do it again, I’ll make all the courts have LED boards like that.
On organizing WTA and ATP Tourney together.
Hiten Joshi: If the men and women tourneys are organised together, it will be much more fun. One helps the other. Each one has its plus points. There is a lot of grace in women’s tennis where as the men’s tennis is powerful, much stronger. They complement each other.
It is only in the last 20-30 years or so that this split has come about organising Mens vs Womens. Otherwise, when you said a tennis tournament in the past – it was always men and women. Even in Chennai when you have a local tournament, you have men and women similar to how you have boys and girls in the junior tournaments. So it’s a good idea to have them together.
However, there is the element of cost. The different rules and requirements complicates the matter a little bit.
Goal of TNTA for the next year.
Hiten Joshi: We need more men and women tennis tournaments.
Most of the tennis is now confined to the academies, they do the tournaments and it’s confined to junior tournaments. When you go to the clubs, the veterans tournaments are in focus. But what we need is men and women tournaments. We want the kids to be men or women as early as possible. And we want the veterans also to feel like men and women, as long as they can.
If a 14 year old beats a local man and becomes men’s champion, you are looking at somebody who will go much more forward in the next few years. A player needs to blast through these levels as early as possible locally for them to be able to progress to International tennis.
On how other state associations can emulate the work of TNTA.
Hiten Joshi: We need good tournaments. First of all, you need to have some facilities and clubs. And then the next thing is to conduct these local tournaments, where the player who wins is the champion of that area, of that state and people look up to them.
That is going to drive not only that player but many others because they play locally. If you’re the best player here and if I get a chance to play you locally, then it builds the competitive spirit of players in that area. You need to have a decent bunch of good quality tennis tournaments in the Men’s and Women’s.
Each association has to think a little bit in this direction rather than getting stuck. Raising money is tough but start in a small way. Make it a tradition and then gradually make it bigger. You may be late to start but you can still make it a tradition.
Start small and then grow gradually. And then everything else will fall into place with training and coaching.
Photos by Srividya Balayogi