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Tourneys to mark club centenary

Jorhat, Sept. 4: A tennis club steeped in history will celebrate a century of its existence by playing host to a slew of international tournaments.

Set up by British officers and tea planters on the bank of the Rajmao Pukhuri (pond) in 1910, Jorhat Tennis Club (JTC) is organising the Asian Juniors, an international ranking tournament for boys and girls (under-14) on November 1-5. This is the first time that such an even will be held in the Northeast.

The meet is a ranking tournament of the Asian Tennis Federation.

Along with the famous Jorhat Gymkhana Club, set up during the British rule in 1876, the tennis club, with footprints of legends like Ramanathan Krishnan, Naresh Kumar, Premjit Lal, Jaideep Mukherjea and Akhtar Ali, has contributed to the richness of this Upper Assam town’s history.

After the Asian Juniors, the club will host another world ranking meet — International Tennis Federation (ITF) Seniors — for men in the above-35, above-45 and 55-plus age groups, with prize money of Rs 3 lakh up for grabs. The meet will be held between November 8 and 13.

In October next year, the tennis club has planned to organise ITF Futures Tournament with a prize money of $10,000 at stake.

Talking to The Telegraph, president of Jorhat Tennis Club, Raktim Saikia, who is also secretary of All Assam Tennis Association, said the Asian Juniors would greatly benefit young boys and girls of the region as the tournament would provide exposure on home turf and enable them to build confidence and improve their performance.

The other two tournaments, with experienced international players taking part, too, will also benefit the youths.

Saikia said apart from these tournaments, the club had decided to convert the existing four clay courts into synthetic ones and also install a synthetic surface on the additional covered court. He said an amount of Rs 1 crore would be needed for the purpose, adding that the corporate sector, which has played a significant role in the development of the club, has promised to provide the funds.

Stating that use of synthetic courts was increasing worldwide with two major Grand Slams — US Open and Australian Open — played on such turf, Saikia said the upcoming players here would be able to prepare themselves in a better way.

“Moreover, going by the long rainy season in the state that reduces playing time, the synthetic courts which hardly takes time to dry up after a shower, would be another advantage,” he added.

He said besides the yearlong coaching programmes conducted by the club, it has decided to bring more international and national-level coaches here at periodic intervals.

Already, Peter Vijay Kumar, a national-level coach, has started conducting a 15-day session for providing training, which would be held three times a year.

Recollecting the past of the tennis club, Saikia said though no exact date of forming the club was known with the initial records not available, the Jorhat deputy commissioner’s office records say that sometime in 1910, a group of British officers and planters had established the club.

With time, prominent Assamese citizens became members.

The first tennis competition was held at the club in 1939 in which the De Chopra Cup was awarded to the singles winner and Rasul Cup to the doubles champion.

Tennis events of All Assam Olympics held in Jorhat was also organised at the tennis club.

Saikia said it was in 1961 that the club had its first big exposure from a visit by former Davis Cuppers, who played exhibition matches here. Ramanathan Krishnan, Naresh Kumar, Premjit Lal, Jaideep Mukherjea and Akhtar Ali had played here.

In 1976, the club hosted the first All Assam inter-district tennis championship and from then onwards there was no looking back. In November 1993, the JTC hosted the All India inter-state and senior national hard court tennis championship with a prize money of Rs 4.5 lakh. The likes of Zeeshan Ali, Syed Fazaluddin, Enrico Piperno, Basudev Reddy, Prahlad Srinath, Nirumpama Vaidyanathan and Janaki Krishnamurthy had participated in the competition.

The club president said in 1995, the GWG AITA national ranking tournaments for men and women with prize money of Rs 2.5 lakh was held at the club.

The ITF Futures world-ranking tournament for men was organised in January 2001 and in 2003

Saikia said the club, which currently has 65 senior members and over 150 players (boys and girls) enrolled in it, has produced national-level players like Rohan Saikia, who was ranked number one in the mini-juniors (under-14) in 1995. Later, Rohan earned a seat in Columbia University for his credentials in the sport.

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