Dhruvan Nair, Undergraduate Batch of 2021 1932 was a landmark year for tennis. It was the
Ishaan Banerji, Class of 2019
The new tennis court at Ashoka was inaugurated on 26th February, 2018. The initial struggles of Ashoka’s tennis players and courts alike, however, must not be forgotten. Here is a timeline to trace the path of tennis at Ashoka.
When the current third years joined Ashoka, there were two functional tennis courts, at the corner between the Sports block and the residences. However, as the courts were built on agricultural ground, they began to sink, much like the hopes for a thriving tennis culture. The courts became dangerous, and subsequently unusable. In the monsoon semester of the 2015–16 academic year, the players were told that the courts would be repaired in a matter of months. However, that never came to pass, and there was no lack of bewilderment when someone unearthed that the area had become a construction site.
For the rest of the year, no arrangement could be brought about, so most of the people who played tennis shifted sports for (at least) the year. However, beginning last year (2016–17 session), a conversation with the Motilal Nehru School of Sports (Rai) meant that players from Ashoka could use the courts at MNSS, a few kilometers away from our college. This arrangement, while definitely a step-up from the no-tennis situation of the last year, wasn’t a very organised situation. People would go on random days as there was no regular schedule, the number of people willing to go tended to vary a lot, transport issues would pop up once in a while, all of which meant that the experience for the players wasn’t very smooth, making it difficult to practice meaningfully and improve.
A certain incident occurred however, when one of our female players was reprimanded for wearing tennis shorts, and was forbidden from entering the MNSS complex. The matter escalated as the other players around her tried to convince the MNSS guards that she had done nothing wrong, and should be allowed in, ultimately leading to the end of that particular arrangement.
The end of one arrangement was quickly followed by the availability of a new option- OP Jindal’s courts. Once the squash courts were built last year, Jindal players began to come here to make use of them. Seeing this, some enterprising players decided to see if it was possible to in turn go to the Jindal campus and use their courts once or twice a week. Like the MNSS arrangement, going to Jindal wasn’t a regular occurrence, and the people who went kept changing.
It was also not the most flexible option, as Jindal itself needed the courts on certain days and during certain times. This system wasn’t fulfilling for the players either. For persons who had come into college expecting to continue with their beloved sport, and hopefully move on to greater things, having such limited access to tennis courts restricted their enthusiasm and hope for the sport as well. However, things were not all bad, as the players who went to Jindal had the opportunity to feast on cheese pizzas and rolls and fries.
But on the brighter side, parched for the taste of a racket swing, innovation erupted. There were multiple 2nd v 3rd year matches near the lift space on the 4th floor of SH-2, where many a rivalry flourished. People played for hours on the basketball courts, at the risk of looking blissfully stupid in the eyes of our Ashokan colleagues. People played on the volleyball courts, in their rooms and even in the balconies for wall practice. The passion to play is clearly there. In the humble opinion of Jatin Bhatnagar, the games that were invented with the tennis racket represent some of the best original work this University has ever produced, academic or otherwise.
While all this was taking place, a court was on the verge of being constructed near the Faculty Residence, and as hopes rose again, they were dashed, when for the second time in two years, the tennis court space became construction space.
In October 2017, when the new Pro-VC Sankar Krishnan joined, Dhruv Agarwal corresponded with him about the lack of meaningful facilities for tennis players at Ashoka, which led to a conversation about a whole new court. However, as it tends to happen, the construction of the new court(near the Dhaba), was pushed back multiple times. Initially said to be ready by the 10th of January, the deadline kept getting pushed due to issues with the vendor, before finally opening on the 26th of February.
Coaching at the new court will take place on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, a beginner’s batch from 6:30 to 7:45, and an advanced batch from 7:45 to 9. The coach is the same as the one who took lessons during the monsoon semester of the 2015–16 session. The court will remain open 24×7, for anyone who may want to play, and balls are available at the Sports block. University rackets will be acquired soon. The court itself is an 8-layer synthetic, floodlit, doubles court. Given that most courts in India have just two layers, it is a top-level court, that will provide reliable spin and outstanding playing quality.
Despite the many issues faced by tennis players in Ashoka in the last few years, Ashoka has done commendably well at tournaments, winning 6 medals at the AIIMS tournament and the women’s gold medal at the IIT Delhi tournament in the last academic year.
There have been glimpses of poor planning in the way that tennis courts have been promised to players, almost constructed, but never opened, until now. One may expect, that now that a court is finally available, the tennis culture will take off like Roger Federer’s career in the last year.
Ishaan Banerji is the Managing Editor of the Sports column for The Edict.