Hunt for Indian grand slam champion starts

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The Mission 2018 Challenge rolled into the city on Saturday with Mahesh Bhupathi conducting a camp to select promising under-14 tennis players.

Updated: December 16, 2007 12:40 IST
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The ambitious Mission 2018 Challenge, aiming to give the country its first-ever grand slam singles champion, rolled into the city on Saturday with Mahesh Bhupathi conducting a camp to select promising under-14 tennis players for the programme.

A brainchild of corporate giants Apollo Tyres, which plans to pump in Rs 100 crore over the next 10 years to spot and groom talents for the big stage, the programme was set rolling two weeks back in Banglaore where 10 kids were preliminarily screened.

Nine more boys and girls made the cut from the second regional camp at Mumbai last week.

"After today's camp and the one in Delhi next week, we will spot a total of around 40 boys. From them, around five to ten kids will be shortlisted for the programme at the national camp in Delhi on December 23," Bhupathi, the consultant for the scheme, said.

The selected kids would be enrolled with the Foundation for Indian Sporting Talent, the academy run by Bhupathi in Bangalore, and put through a rigorous training programme.

"It will be a residential programme. We will provide them top grade international standard equipment. We will do everything to provide them world class training.

"We are thinking about arranging for their school education. To give them proper exposure the programme also includes a three-month training session abroad in the first year itself," said divisional head, corporate marketing group of Apollo Tyres Hemant Kaul.

"Besides on-court training, there would be regular sessions on Yoga. There would be stress on fitness. Dieticians would be there and so would be programmes for making them mentally tough. For injury management, there would be good physios," said Bhupathi.

Similar zonal camps would be held next year and the entire programme reviewed from time to time, Kaul said.

Asked if some kids could be dropped at a later stage if they failed to cope with the rigorous schedule, Kaul said they were yet to decide on that. But since the entire programme is performance-based, such things cannot be ruled out.

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