The Road to Wimbledon has returned to Delhi, India, for the Junior Masters finals. Tournament Director Paul Hutchins describes how the competition is progressing so far, with eyes on the prize of the chance to play at Wimbledon...
Greetings from Delhi. Why? Let me explain.
The UK version of the HSBC Road to Wimbledon has now expanded to Asia.
India is the first stop and a pilot scheme was set up early in 2014 alongside the newly formed Wimbledon Foundation. This pilot scheme consisted of two under 14 events in Delhi and Mumbai with the top 16 boys and girls qualifying for the Road to Wimbledon Junior Masters here in Delhi. The two boys' and two girls' finalists will be awarded the invitation to attend the National UK Finals of the HSBC Road to Wimbledon during the week of 11 August 2014.
What a great prize!
On arrival on day one, I am greeted again by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) our partners in the scheme. This day coincided with UN Peace and Development Day and a chance for children from different communities to taste tennis via the Magic Bus charity who do so much to assist marginalised communities across the country by developing education often linked with sport.
Local tennis centre coaches as well as from Magic Bus organised tennis clinics for the children and it was great to see so many smiling faces full of fun.
We then met all the parents and juniors who qualified for the Masters and did the draw causing much excitement, especially when I told them we were also having a social mixed doubles!
Partners were drawn and each pair asked to introduce themselves to each other. 13-year-old juniors are fussy who they play with so it was interesting to see all their reactions!
Weather here is hot at 33 degrees. In January it was foggy and cold or cold by Indian climate standards!
We are playing at the RK Khanna tennis centre in New Delhi, the home of the AITA and this is the site where I came in 2010 for the Commonwealth Games. It is an excellent centre with plenty of hard courts and a massive centre court where Davis Cup matches are often played.
The tennis standard is good and it will be interesting to compare the standards when the Indian juniors come over to us in August. Indian tennis is well developed from a competitive perspective and we are in discussion with coaches, parents, players as to how we can work with the AITA in the future for Wimbledon via the Foundation and the Road to Wimbledon and HSBC to assist in the development of Indian junior tennis.
We are also trying to give the juniors a 'Wimbledon Experience' and while over here in Delhi we are spreading the word about The Championships and offering players, coaches and parents an opportunity to meet Dan Bloxham and myself to discuss key subjects to do with junior tennis pathways.
Last night, we treated the players and parents to a party hosted by Wimbledon and HSBC poolside at the tennis centre.
Some real traditional Indian dancing music gradually brought the players to the dance floor after some persuasion!
We presented each player with a framed photo of iconic photos of The Championships and some museum mementos, there were a few speeches and got the juniors packed off early ready for the early matches.
A good time was had by all.
Over and out.