THE FIRST BREAK POINT
The tennis courts of Kalinga Stadium once again gained prominence after a brief lull after it played host to Odisha Tennis Premier League (OTPL) 2017. The league tournament which was organized for the very first time in Odisha promised tennis at its highest level. With players sweating out against one another, tennis lovers were in for a sweet treat to cheer the players and teams they were representing, from the stands. While many earlier rued that Odisha tennis has gone into slumber, the success of OTPL 2017 has reinstated the hope that the sport has a bright future in the state. The tournament organized from 19th to 23rd November was inaugurated by eminent dignitaries at the newly revamped Kalinga Stadium Tennis Complex. As many as 32 players belonging to eight teams from the state took part in the five-day tournament. The teams were Angul Acers, Bhadrak Victors, Cuttack Conquerors, Khordha Warriors, Kendrapada Contenders, Puri Wavers, Sambalpur Shooters and Sundergarh Veerans
Interestingly, the organizers left no stone unturned to bring in attention and focus towards the tournament. A month-long Facebook campaign with constant updates and players information were seen doing the rounds in the official Facebook page of the tournament. The official anthem video of the tournament ‘Daud Daud’ that featured the top tennis players of the state was equally captivating to watch. The inaugural ceremony of the tournament was an exciting affair as differently-abled students from deaf and mute school, BBC, showcased their talent on the tennis courts. The students were also taught a lesson or two about tennis by a city-based Students group, Chocolate Group with an objective to groom and introduce them to the sport. The tournament was kept ticket-free to draw audiences towards the sport. Speaking regarding the tournament, international tennis player and tournament director Dilip Mohanty says, “The tournament will prove to be a stepping stone for both established and upcoming players of Odisha. Tennis has been growing at a faster pace in the state and hence it was contemplated to introduce a tournament in the league format. I’m sure the players have enjoyed playing the tournament. Without the support of media, sponsors, players, volunteers and other support staff, the tournament would not have been successful.” The initial two days of the tournament were normal days at business. The league matches were played with the teams eyeing to top the group charts. Till the third day of the tournament, the teams were dillydallying on the score chart with the players putting their best foot forward for their respective teams. What was interesting was that the frenzy around Odisha Men’s Hockey League Finals and India-Sri Lanka T20 match never marred the popularity of OTPL that drew crowds in huge numbers.
On the penultimate day, the teams Kendrapada Contenders and Sambalpur Shooters fought it out for the coveted title. Such was the battle that none of the players of the teams were wanting to let go off this opportunity. Both the teams fought tooth and nail and were aptly supported by the crowds. In the end, Kendrapada Contenders came out victorious by a 3-1 margin and thereby lifted the trophy and got richer by Rs 1,00,000. The Sambalpur Shooters who gave a decent performance throughout the tournament received Rs 50,000.
The numero uno women tennis player of Odisha Rutuparna Chaudhury, one of the key players of Kendrapada Contenders says, “Since not many tennis tournaments are held in Odisha, a tournament like OTPL comes as a breathe of fresh air for tennis in the state. I had earlier played Bengal Tennis Premier League and always felt if a tournament like this was organized in Odisha, players would be benefited in many ways than one. The tournament created a different atmosphere for the players which would help to create awareness among the people regarding the sport. I hope many more such tournaments are organized in Odisha. It was an amazing experience playing with the senior and experience players of my team. I credit good team spirit and proper coordination among the players behind the success of Kendrapada Contenders. I thank the organizers from the core of my heart for organizing such an amazing tournament for the players.” After the successful conclusion of the tournament, now everyone is looking forward to its second edition with more fun, action and competition. Let’s hope the tournament will open up huge avenues for Odisha tennis that has been desperately longing for support, patronage and encouragement