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Merchants’ cup serve & volley

The Royal Challenge Merchants’ Cup Tennis Tournament in association with The Telegraph got off to a solid serve at Calcutta South Club on Saturday afternoon. t2 caught up with the game-changers

Cognizant, the defending champions, is on a Gold Plate hat-trick. That must be a lot of pressure? “That’s pressure for other teams!” smiles a confident Ashish Jaiswal, who has picked up a racquet after a good 10 years and admires Rafael Nadal. The company this time has “better players” feels Debjit Basu, a soccer player and Team Tennis’s “cheerman”. “That’s why we have two teams. Cognizant always encourages extra-curricular activities, be it soccer, cricket, tennis, table tennis…. Internally too, we have something called Celebrating Cognizant, where every business unit has its separate house… it is a platform to nurture budding talent. We have had more than a couple of day’s practice this time. We are prepared to defend it,” says Basu, the Novak Djokovic fan. Siddhartha Sengupta has had the chance to witness history: watch two men called Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the US Open. “When I was in the US, every year I used to attend the US Open. You get goosebumps! I treasure those photos!” smiles the FedEx fan. Their aim at this Merchants’ Cup? To lift both the Gold and Silver Plates!

What’s the winning mantra? “We know that last year’s runners-up are preparing hard. We are also motivated. We have day jobs and we are not professionals, but we spend significant time to keep ourselves fit. We practise two-three days a week and the biggest motivation is this tournament!” says captain Jagadish Kundu (inset), a Leander Paes fan. The finals are slated for April 10 followed by a glittering prize distribution ceremony on April 11 at Taj Bengal to be attended by Leander Paes among others.

Pictures: Bhubaneswarananda Halder

Tata Steel captain R.N. Murthy (right) gets ready to rally on Saturday. “This time the aim is to at least qualify for the Gold Plate,” he tells t2. Tata Steel were the winners of the Silver Plate last year. Guess what this John McEnroe fan’s tennis dream is? “I would have loved to be in the stadium when he was playing Bjorn Borg!”

Pranay Kumar of Tata Steel, who wants to watch Federer live before he calls it a day, in action on Saturday. “The singles that Pranay played last year was on a par with many players you can think of in the Gold category,” was the certificate from his last year’s captain Rajiv Seth.

Rajiv Seth, a fast bowler who has played first class cricket for Bengal and Odisha and is now the executive committee member of the Merchants’ Cup Tennis Association, describes himself as a sports enthusiast who plays cricket, tennis, soccer and some hockey too. “We are competitive!” says the Tata Steel man. Rajiv is an admirer of Federer’s consistency.

CESC B’s Sudip Paul is a Rafa fan, but chose to go with a Federer cap because Nadal’s merchandise is not available in the city! Desperate times call for desperate measures!

Young Nilanjana Saha did not know that the tourney was supposed to kick off on Saturday, but hung around once the action started. “I might watch it if I get the time,” smiled the 13-year-old who wants to take up tennis and would love a game with a certain Maria Sharapova.