Thanks to the & #BANNER1 & # off-field controversies and on-field debacles of the Indian cricket team, the game is slowly losing ground in a country which is considered the Mecca of cricket. As a result, other sports genres are raising their heads and making their presence felt. What's more, these moves are being supported by corporate houses.
In what could be termed as one of the biggest such sports initiatives taken up by an Indian company towards developing a sport in India, Apollo Tyres unveiled its plans to create an Indian Grand Slam title winner by 2018. It's put its money where its mouth is, too, by setting aside Rs 100 crore to be invested in tennis over the next 10 years.
"Over the decades, the game of tennis has thrown up some great Indian talent, who, on great individual merit, have made India proud. However, consistency is missing from Indian players. I believe that with world-class training, facilities and mentoring, we could see an Indian winning a Grand Slam in the near future," says Neeraj RS Kanwar, JMD & COO, Apollo Tyres.
When quizzed about why his company has chosen to invest in tennis over any other sport, Kanwar says, "Tennis is one game that can reach the masses and is already popular among Indians."
The Apollo Tyres tennis initiative will work at two levels: one, popularising the sport to attract youngsters to the game, and two, identifying young talent nationally and sponsoring their training, skill development and global exposure.
Towards this end, Apollo has roped in Indian tennis star Mahesh Bhupathi, also its brand ambassador for the sport, who will provide his expertise and also involve other tennis legends to boost the programme.
Bhupathi adds, "Apollo's initiative could change the face of Indian tennis. Our goal sounds audacious, but it is achievable." Bhupathi already runs the Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academy (MBTA), but the current initiative will be under the corporate umbrella of the Apollo Tennis Initiative and the tagline, 'Play to be Unstoppable'.
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