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Poor tennis complex, ball in govt court

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 14: Lack of courts at Kalinga Stadium here prompted tennis players of the state to raise their voice against the situation.

Some players have jointly begun an online campaign through an “Odisha Tennis Revolution” page on a social networking site.

Besides, at the 15th All-Odisha Nalco Open Tennis Tournament under way at the stadium’s tennis complex, the players yesterday united to draw the attention of the authorities towards the existing issues by wearing black ribbons during the inauguration.

“We are neither against the ongoing tournament nor the host, the Bhubaneswar District Tennis Association. But, we wanted the state sports department to make a note of our concerns,” said Chinmay Pradhan, the only Odia player to have won an All-India Tennis Association (AITA) men’s singles title. He has opted out of the Nalco Open this year. “The tennis courts at Kalinga Stadium, the venue for the tournament, are so uneven and risky for players that I had to opt out to avoid injuries,” he said.

During the inauguration on Thursday, at least 50 players sported black ribbons demanding better courts. But, Saswat Mishra, who recently joined as the sports secretary, promised the players that all the six courts of the stadium would be transformed into wall-to-wall synthetic courts, after which the players suspended their protests.

The state sports department had announced that the courts at Kalinga Stadium would be transformed into synthetic ones for which the work began in February.

“About 70-odd players used to practise at the courts. But since construction of the courts was in progress, they had to quit practice. Though the courts were announced to be ready by March, they stretched the work till almost mid-December. During this entire period of almost a year, the training of young players almost completely stopped,” said Pradhan.

That apart, the courts that have been made synthetic are not up to the mark, said a player. The two synthetic courts have only been made till the baseline, but players run on the portion of the court beyond the line throughout the match. Therefore, due to change of surface landing will be tough and risky. The synthetic surface is ensured to be dirt free during construction, but the two courts here are full of dirt and that is a challenge for players while running since they may slip. The other two cemented courts are uneven and thus players may get injured. The surface of these cemented courts also has many cracks and hence players blamed the authorities that probably the project was given to contractors with no experience.

“I think this is the only complex in the world where you find variety of clay courts, cement courts with various types of bounce and pace and then semi-synthetic courts…where you get the feeling of moving on a cement court…They must have done this on purpose by deteriorating the standard of the court while making it so that you play in the toughest conditions and be the toughest player in the tour,” said top seed of the Nalco Open tournament Santosh Kumar Mallik sarcastically on the online page of Odisha Tennis Revolution.