MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
Ashlesha Lissanevitch, Mina Ghartimagar, Achal Sumsher Thapa (pictured), Milan Rokaya and Sandesh Singh Rathor and took part in the Under-14 (second group) category of Asian Tennis Championship that ended on Wednesday in Kuching, Malaysia. The championship saw over 80 young players from 38 countries compete for the cups. The five were selected from 116 players who participated in the Seventh Jaykar Memorial Junior Open.
Although Nepal didn't make it to the semi-finals the performance is quite commendable. Among the boys Sandesh ranked 14th. Milan and Achal stood 26th and 29th respectively. Ashlesha, whose strong forehand shots, height and skills in the court had made Nepal's foremost hopeful, made it to the 15th position among the girls. Mina stood 21st.
The Nepali coach and team manager Surya Bhushan Bajracharya feels the players are as competent as those from any other country. In the 2004 championship Ramesh Karki had made it to the semi-finals, his success was an inspiration to the newcomers.
Nepal played against Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Malaysia. If Nepal had reached the semi-finals, the game would have been against contenders from Group I which include India, China and Thailand. India's Sania Mirza was also once a winner of the U-14 category of this Championship.
The performance of the players has boosted the confidence about the future of tennis in Nepal."We plan on organising junior championships under International Tennis Federation (ITF). This will allow the players to achieve points required to meet international standards and will also help increase the popularity of the sport," says Manoj Sumsher Rana, president of All Nepal Lawn Tennis Association.
MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
Although tennis as a sport is yet to develop in Nepal, we do have a history to be proud of. In 1982, Sarad Lama and SK Singh received rave reviews on their performance in the Asian Games held at New Delhi. In the 1984/85 Wimbledon, Sujay Lama was selected in the junior games. He wrote a regular tennis column for Nepali Times from 2004-2006, and is now coaching players in a US university. His doubles partner and also the Nepali co-ordinator at the ITF, Krishna Raj Ghale laments, "We were not able to build on the successes of the past."
However tennis does have plenty of potential because tournaments are held regularly for those aged 5-50 and over. In the ITF Veteran Championship (over 45) held in India last June, the team of ex-ministers Kamal Thapa and Madhukar Rana reached the doubles semifinals. Rana even made it to the finals in the over 65 category.
Suresh Raj Neupane