Join Date: Sep 2001
KOLKATA, SEPTEMBER 17, 2005
NRI, US-born Indian origin tennis player, Sunitha Rao wants to represent the country of her origin someday, but her immediate goal is to break into the top 100 WTA rankings. "I am in good form and playing well. But I want to work harder and improve my singles ranking," she said.
Sunitha had her career-best singles ranking of 152 in 2003 but it went down last year when she failed to qualify in the WTA tours of Memphis, Vancouver, New Haven and the US open grand slam. She had qualified in the seoul WTA open but her challenge had ended in the first round itself. Sunitha, currently ranked 161, was slated to play the qualifiers from tomorrow but things changed when German Marlene Weingartner pulled out because of injury. “It’s a dream-come-true. This is the first time I am playing in the main draw without taking the difficult route and the fact that it’s in India makes it all the more special,” she said.
This is Sunitha’s first visit to the city, although she has played Challengers in Mumbai, New Delhi and Hyderabad and she is enjoying every bit of her stay here. “I was born in New Jersey, but that doesn’t take away the fact that I am an Indian at heart, especially since my father is from Chennai and mom from Bangalore,” she said.
In 2003, Rao earlier had a chance to play for India when at the at the age of 17, she was the highest ranked Indian in the world at 162. But she could not play for India as her father Manohar Rao had asked the AITA to pay her $100,000 per year for five years of her training for representing India in the Fed Cup. The AITA had refused her case and since then Sunitha has fallen off with her father. This had caused a rift between Rao and her father.
At Netaji Indoor Stadium, Rao said: “I would love to play for India. Once my ranking goes up to where I want it to, I will request the All-India Tennis Association and the ITF to allow me to play for India. But that will take some time.”
Sunitha Rao, will be 21 in Oct. She would be the fourth Indian in the main draw after second seed Sania Mirza, Shikha Uberoi and wild card Neha Uberoi.
Playing for India will be a dream fulfilled: SunithaShailendra Awasthi
Mumbai, March 21:
The press release issued for the Mumbai University-ITF $25,000 Women’s Tennis Tournament being played at Kalina campus had a contrasting information. While it claimed that Sunitha Rao will be leading Indian challenge, the participating players’ list showed her as an American citizen.
But it seems the days of uncertainty for Sunitha Rao are almost over. The 21-year-old American player of Indian origin has been struggling since last four years to get the nod to play for India and the Asia-Oceania Group Group I Fed Cup qualifiers to be played at Christchurch next month might see Sunitha finally donning Indian colours.
var zflag_nid="305"; var zflag_cid="279/1"; var zflag_sid="173"; var zflag_width="300"; var zflag_height="250"; var zflag_sz="9"; “It will be a dream fulfilled,’’ said Sunitha on the sidelines of ongoing tournament where she lost in the second round. With a go-ahead from All-India Tennis Association (AITA) in her bag, she is waiting for the International Tennis Federation’s clearance. “It should happen in two week’s time, well before Indian team’s departure.’’
It has been a long drawn struggle for Florida-based Sunitha ever since her father Manohar for the first time proposed to AITA to include include her in Indian team. His demands in return for allowing Sunitha play for India were strange, wanting Rs five crore from AITA, which he claimed was spent on his daughter’s coaching expenses. AITA declined the offer and Sunitha was left in the dark.
In fact, things got worse when the United States Tennis Association (USTA), which was supporting her, learnt that Sunitha was trying to play for India. All the financial help and wild cards that she was eligible for were stopped. Sunitha, who was among top 25 ranked players in US in 2003, which included the likes of the Williams sisters, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati, then left to fend for her own.
But now she doesn’t want to talk about those times. “It’s better we look forward to new goals,’’ points out Sunitha, who says her father has had a great impact on her career. “He is very demanding but that’s because he loves me so much.’’
Doesn’t that puts pressure on her? “No. I guess almost everyone needs a parent that is really involved and a little pushy. Most of the top players have had at least one parent who was like that.’’
“It’s difficult. You need lot of money to keep travelling. I travel for about 30 to 35 weeks in a year,’’ informs Sunitha, who now has a travelling coach in Florida-based American Bill Eastburn. “To pay for your coach while travelling also puts a huge burden on us,’’ she added.
Sunitha had attained a WTA ranking of 150 in 2003 but since then has struggled to keep it within 200. Right now she has a ranking of 221. “I had a stomach and a wrist injury in last two years and that hampered my progress, but now I aim to break into top 150 again by the year end.’’ Sunitha says Indian can go places in Fed Cup with players like her, Sania Mirza and Shikha Uberoi available for selections. “We can make a dream team for India,’’ she adds.