Chances are that you have stargazed from many a rooftop. When you were a kid, you may have even gone as far as to draw a court for some casual terrace badminton. But what about a sky-high game of no-holds-barred tennis, with no fear of the ball being smashed away forever?
Calcutta is now home to Indias highest tennis court, perched at 120ft, on top of Axis Mall in New Town Rajarhat. Sky Courts, a Mahesh Bhupathi Team Tennis Pvt. Ltd initiative, is Indias first rooftop tennis academy.
The idea was born when K.S. Bagchi, managing director, Bengal Peerless Housing Development Co. Ltd, came across a tennis academy on the first floor of a Bangalore building. Mahesh has been our brand ambassador from 2003. When I saw this academy five years ago, I asked Mahesh whether it was possible to build a tennis court 120ft above ground level, he recalls.
Mahesh Bhupathi and Bhaichung Bhutia at Sky Courts; (above) Jacqueline Fernandez at the launch. Pictures by Pabitra Das
The tennis ace was more than willing to serve it up. Mahesh has looked into everything as far as the academy goes. He has recommended the ideal height of the net so the ball doesnt go flying out. He has helped with the lights, balls, racquets and suggested that the court should have a cushion so students dont hurt themselves, says Bagchi.
Though Axis Mall is not yet ready for a shopping trip, the academy saw a formal launch on May 6. And it was a starry affair with Sri Lankan beauty-turned Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez, Bhaichung Bhutia and Mahesh Bhupathi hitting a few over the net.
Formal training starts from the first week of June. You can play as a hobby or for pleasure or fitness. Professional players are also welcome, says Bagchi. Kids aged four and above can have a shot as well. We are even getting queries from the IT sector, says S. Majumder, assistant general manager, Bengal Peerless Housing Development.
Two pinkish-red synthetic rubber courts measuring 110ftx 56ft will be home to a flexible schedule of classes. The programmes have been divided into Progressive Tennis, Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced and Adult. You can also book private lessons. There are three-day programmes for all courses, except the Advanced course, which involves a six-day schedule.
The registration fee is Rs 1,500 and the fees range from Rs 900 to Rs 3,000 per month, and from Rs 4,900 to Rs 16,200 for half-yearly packages. Private coaching classes will set you back between Rs 300 and Rs 500 per hour.
We will also be having several warm-up exercises with hurdles, rings and hoops. There will be skipping to increase stamina, says Munawar Hossain, head coach.
And there is more on its way. The tennis academy will be flanked by a gym — helmed by Bhupathi once again — and a spa.
Where: Axis Mall, Rajarhat
What: Sky Courts, Indias first rooftop tennis academy
Number of courts: Two
Vital stats: 110ftx56ft each
Admission age: Four-plus
Programmes: Progressive Tennis, Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced and Adult
Registration fee: Rs 1,500
Rs 900 for Progressive Tennis
Rs 1,200 for Beginners
Rs 2,000 for Intermediate
Rs 3,000 for Adult
Rs 5,000 for Advanced