Tennis might not be the most popular sport in the country, but former World No. 1 Justine Henin wants to change that and create a sense of love for the game when she visits India later this the month.
The winner of seven Grand Slam singles titles will be in the national capital for the fifth edition of the Roland-Garros Junior Wild Card Series from April 29 to May 1.
The tournament aims to provide clay court tennis experience to the young talent in India and the Belgian feels this will be the time when she would want to create an impression with the kids in the country.
Speaking to IANS, Justine said that lack of role models is definitely one of the reasons why the sport isn't very popular in the country. While there have been legends like Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupati and Sania Mirza, there has been a dearth of constant supply of personalities and that hasn't helped.
"It is important to have role models to set examples. They will motivate the kids. For example, when the Belgium soccer team does well, kids want to play the game. Personalities at the top help motivate the kids. Sharing the experience of playing at the top-level also inspires the kids.
"I don't know enough about India to be precise, but with so many people there, we can ask the question how much the people want to play the game. Things are improving with some players doing well on the ATP tour. I will be able to speak about this more when I get there and interact with the people. I also hear that tennis is expensive and that could be a reason, but this kind of events like the junior wild card series will help," she explained.
Justine was the World No. 1 for 100 career weeks. When asked what it takes to dominate a competitive circuit for so long, she said: "It is a mix of different things. But the first thing is believing in yourself and what is the dream that you have. My dream was to win the Roland Garros and become No. 1 one day. Many people believed I would never make it, but the most important thing was that deep down, I knew what I wanted.
"Even through the difficult moments, I would ask myself how badly I wanted it. Hardwork and dedication is also an important area along with the kind of people around you. You can play badly in a game, but you have to take the right risks and win the important points. So, a lot of things go into making a champion."
Commenting on how the coming series will help promote the game in India, Justine said that it would be an exciting experience for her to talk to the kids about the game as well as share the secrets of playing on clay court, considered one of the toughest surfaces in the world.
"I think it (the trip) is very important as it gives the opportunity to talk about tennis in India. It is improving even though I know it is not the most popular sport. But things are moving and this event will let me speak to the kids about the atmosphere of a Grand Slam and also how it feels to be a part of it.
"It is an amazing opportunity for the kids. The clay court surface is not very common in India and I would love to share the secrets of playing on it, as it makes you a complete player. This event will give me an opportunity to promote the game in India," she smiled.
(Baidurjo Bhose can be contacted at email@example.com)
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