It was not just another Sunday in one of the extreme suburbs in Mumbai; but it was the Pickleball day at Global City in Virar. The Mumbai Pickleball Association organized a training camp in Club One of Global City with the sole motive to promote the game and to increase its reach to various corners of urban Mumbai.
Uday Dhonde, a Pickleball fanatic, arranged the pros and cons of the camp where local enthusiasts ranging from 6 to 60 years came in to have a taste of the game. There was a certain Sunel Mehta, an amateur tennis player, who travelled almost 70kms to reach Virar and experience the game’s magic.
Young players of Pickleball like Kunal Bare, Aashish Mahajan, Krishna Gupta and Chethan Kate, chosen by the Association, were given the responsibility to give the basic training to the interested participants. They got to know about the court structure, points of the games, service rules, non-volley zone, hitting and non-hitting of the ball in bounce and other nuances of the game. Overall it was a nice experience for those who went there to know something new and distinctive.
The unique game of Pickleball was developed from the elements of Tennis, Table Tennis and Badminton which was first played during the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island in Washington. Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum- three friends- found their children bored at their home in summer holidays. They attempted to play badminton, but due to the instant unavailability of shuttlecock, they replaced it with a wiffle ball. They continued playing the game with lowered Badminton nets and handmade paddles and eventually gave the name Pickleball, perhaps derived from Pritchard’s family dog, Pickles, who often ran dutifully to search the balls.
From the USA, the game travelled to different parts of the world and is regarded as one of the fastest-growing sport internationally. Events and tournaments are organized globally to give a pan-world appeal to the game. One such tournament- Bangkok Open Pickleball- will commence from 6th April 2018 at Santisuk English School in Bangkapi, Bangkok. This is the tournament’s second edition after its tremendous success in 2017 where players from India, Thailand, the USA, Australia, Vietnam and several other Asian countries participated.
This year the 3-day Championship will have Men’s and Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles events. All events are open to players of any age representing any country. The Indian contingent will be led by esteemed Pickleball player Atul Edward and All India Pickleball Association (AIPA) Secretary Sunil Valavalkar. Besides, the players representing the tricolor of India are Krushna Mantri, Bharat Raj Sharma, Arjun Singh Shekhawat, Neil Thakur, Amar Soniminde, Deepak Kumar R, Deepak KC, Ranjan Kumar Gupta, Aakash S, Chethan Ranagnathan, Poornesh, Shankar Naik, Amit Kumar Rana, Balwant Salunke, Rahul Kumar Wani, Rajath Kankar, Ojaswin Harish Alurkar, Apoorva. R and Saloni Deoda.
From Bangkok, Pickleball will travel to its home country where the players are getting ready for the Minto US Open Pickleball Championships at Naples in Florida. The 3rd edition of this Open will be played from 21st– 29th April, 2018. It is a world-class international event attracting the best players in the sport, as well as Pickleball enthusiasts of all ages and ability levels. An inspirational lead is that the youngest participant is 10 years old whereas the oldest ones are 90+. The 80+ Singles division will have 9 participants.
This year, the US Open will showcase some of the top Pickleball players of the world like Ben johns, Kyle Yates, Rob Elliot, Simone Jardim, Dave Weinbach, Lucy Kovalova, Matt Wright, Sarah Ansboury, Irina Tereschenco, Scott Moore, Jennifer Lucore and Christine McGrath.
Indian ace player, Manish Rao will be the first player from this country to play in the Open. He will be playing at 4.5 level in skill and 45-49 in age group. Manish will be partnering Samit Kargaonkar, a New York-based Indian and is a part of Clubmk in Mumbai. Another Indian origin player, Ravi Shetty, will be partnering Samir in the 4.5 skill Men’s Doubles.
Thus with a packed schedule ahead, Pickleball intends to develop further and spread its wings. This new sport needs more initiatives like these to boost its growth and popularity worldwide.