City-based national junior tennis champion Gargi Pawar lost her father, Pramod Pawar, last month. Within three days of his death, she was back on the court, immersing herself in what she is best at— tennis.
It is Gargi’s dedication towards the game that has inspired many to come forward to help her fulfill her father’ dream.
Last Sunday, Deccan Gymkhana had organised a ‘Tournament for a Cause’, the proceeds of which were given to the 14-year-old tennis player.
“I have been watching Gargi’s game for the last three-four years. Her performance has been consistent and she has been winning tournaments. Every day, she has been practicing for 3-4 hours… In order to maintain her ranking, she needs to play more tournaments, for which she needs financial support. So, I decided to hold this tournament. The money raised is not too much, but it may help fund one or two tournaments. Tennis is an expensive game… there’s no limit to the expenses involved, on coaching, travelling, shoes, racquet, balls, nutritional diet and so on. Hopefully, more people will come forward to support her,” said Sudhir Ranade, secretary of the Deccan Gymkhana Tennis Department.
Gargi’s mother Sakshi, a housewife, shared, “Since Gargi was barely six years old, her father had been preparing her to play tennis… When he died and she went to pay her last respects, she promised him that she would fulfill his dream.”
So passionate was Pramod about his daughter’s tennis career that he had converted a piece of land near their house in Barshi into a temporary tennis court, said Sakshi. She added that her husband had bought a basic tennis racquet and a few boxes of tennis balls. For nearly three years, the father-daughter duo would spend hours on the court.
“During those years, neither did she play any matches, nor did she take any coaching. But she never said no to practice. Finally, her father decided to sell his business in Barshi and shift us to Pune, so that Gargi could be enrolled for professional coaching,” said Sakshi.
On the way ahead for her family, she said, “I know it will be difficult financially, but we will do anything to make Gargi realise her father’s dream.”
Hemant Bendrey, who has been coaching Gargi for more than two years, has also waived off his coaching fee — Rs 12,000 per month — to help her out in these tough times.
Speaking about his student, who had won the ATF Asian U-14 series tennis tournament last year, he said, “Gargi is a powerful player and has got good strength. Even though she came from a small place like Barshi without any professional coaching, her technique wasn’t bad. I didn’t have to work too much on her. When she returned to the court after her father’s death, the first 10 days were hard on her. She was taking breaks in between, which was understandable. I also didn’t say much. But now she is back to her game and has been giving more than 100 per cent,” said Bendrey, adding that Gargi has all the potential to be an international tennis champion.
Bendrey is planning to organise tennis tournaments in the future to raise money to help Gargi. “Later, if she’s able to maintain her ranking, she may attract sponsors,” he said.
In a year, a young tennis player’s family has to spend nearly Rs 5 lakh, so that s/he can travel to various cities to take part in tournaments.