Goan tennis prodigy Natasha Palha won praises from the people of Goa recently when she became the first Goan player to be included in the Indian tennis team for the 2014 Asian Games which were held in Incheon, South Korea last year. She crashed out but not without making a mark on the international circuit. Despite the glaring lack of tennis infrastructure, Goa has produced a rising star with many more in the offing.
The popularity of tennis has been growing slowly yet steadily among kids of all ages in Goa, over the last few years. Parents are encouraging their kids to take up sports beyond cricket and football which are the obvious choices.
At the recently organised Cidade de Goa Open Tennis Tournament held in association with the Goa State Tennis Association (GSTA) tennis enthusiasts battled it out to win the top spots. The tournament saw an overwhelming response from kids in particular with many displaying their talent on the courts. President, Goa State Tennis Association (GSTA) Nathan Chowgule said, “The objective of Goa State Tennis Association (GSTA) is to promote tennis and offer a platform to budding tennis players across the state. And the Cidade de Goa Open Tennis Tournament has helped us achieve that to a significant level.”
He said that it is very important for players to compete with players they aren’t familiar with as it improves their game. The players brought in enthusiasm and a great sporting spirit to this tournament. And that’s sports is all about.
In its second edition, the Cidade de Goa Open Tennis Tournament has seen participation, from children and young players in particular. It has brought players together in a competitive yet familiar environment.
Rutuja Rajan Prabhudessai, 10, Bhatikar Model High School
Rutuja Rajan Prabhudessai is the shortest of the kids but is a force to reckon with on the court. She won the U-12 girls category tournament and looks forward to getting a few more titles under her belt. A Sania Mirza fan, she gushes, “She is my favourite player. I always try and watch her whenever she plays’. Her sole aim she explains is to play tennis at Goa level for now and then move to the big arena. “One day I want to play tennis like her and represent India internationally”, quips a delighter and confident Rujuta.
Arlindo Edwin Gomindes,
11, Manovikas High School
Winner of the U-12 boy’s tennis open Arlindo Edwin Gomindes, a student of Manovikas School, said that after winning the tournament, he felt a sense of achievement. “Tennis is my passion. Whenever I watch great players like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov, Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams play, I get encouraged. That is one of the reasons why I took up tennis”, he said. A multi-talented lad, Arlindo is as good in tennis and other sports as he is in music. While tennis is a passion, Arlindo is clearly focussed on his other goals in life. “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor… a cardiologist” he points out.
Saumya Amit Sukthankar,
13, Sharda Mandir High School
Saumya Amit Sukthankar from Sharda Mandir School, who won the U-16 girls tournament said that playing tennis is more than just a hobby for her. “I love playing tennis. I feel really good when I play tennis especially with my friends.” When asked about her favourite tennis players and what her plans are for the future, she said, “Among men my favourite player is Roger Federer. Among women I love Maria Sharapova. She is my idol and I aspire to become a tennis star like her one day.” Tall, lanky and quick on the court, Saumya is keen to pursue professional tennis.
Werner Watson Fernandes, 12, Manovikas High School
Werner Watson Fernandes of Manovikas High School won the U-16 boys tournament. A diehard fan of Rafael Nadal, he loves the Spanish tennis maestro’s forehand and the way he plays the game. Werner plays other sports like football, cricket, handball and badminton but its tennis which he gravitates to the most. He trains everyday with his coach in Margao. “I haven’t decided as to what I want to do in future” explains a contemplative Werner. “As of now I only want to continue playing good tennis”, he concludes.