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Thums Up! All-Indian Team Wins Atlanta Lawn Tennis Championship

June 2004
Thums Up! All-Indian Team Wins Atlanta Lawn Tennis Championship

Thums Up! All-Indian Team Wins Atlanta Lawn Tennis Championship

Two qualities that mark the Atlanta area are its passion for tennis and its rich ethnic diversity. These qualities came together during the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA) B-8 championships this spring, when an all-Indian team won the men's League City Championship for the first time in its history.

Since 1934, the ALTA has conducted highly competitive tournaments throughout the year for the tennis crazy residents of Atlanta, and has over 85,000 members.

The all-Indian team, which calls itself the ?Thums Up Tennis Team' was formed five years ago when Ashok Ganapathy started calling around to see if any of his friends would join him for a round of tennis on weekends. Games would be organized at 7:00 am on Saturdays and Sundays - so the courts would be available. The individual members were playing ALTA tennis for their neighborhoods, but as Ashok's group grew in both, number and quality, they decided to form a team and play ALTA.... and win the championship.

The team of 20 expatriates from India include Kumar Chandramohan, Ashok Ganapathy, Vijaykumar Gandapodi, Lakshman Rao, Valmiki Raghunathan, Ramu Ramachandra, Venki Ramchandran, Vish Ramakrishnan, Ilango Sankaralingam, Niraj Sharma, Sanjiv Sharma, Guru Shyamsundar, Ramji Srinivasan, Mohan Srinivasrao, Kavil Subramanian, Rakesh Subramanian, Mani Vannan, Ram Venkataraman, Venkatesh Babu Madhava and Amar Verma.

The team plays out of Cameron Forest in Alpharetta. Their first season was fairly successful with the team missing the play-offs by a single point. For its second season in Spring, 2004 the team grew in size and the quality of play.

The team practiced hard, often three or more days a week since the first week of the Spring ALTA season. During the season, many of the Thums-Up players simultaneously participated in other tennis leagues such as K-Swiss and USTA.

Kavil Subramanian is the captain of the team and an excellent player himself. Subramanian carefully analyzed each player's compatibility and skills and crafted an innovative line- up that capitalized on each player's strengths. ALTA's format in the men's doubles, which consists of five doubles matches, requires that every team have a well-balanced line up.

Valmiki Raghunathan, who lives in Cameron Forest, formed an Internet group on Yahoo! called 'Thums-Up' and started organizing the group and obtained permission from his subdivision (Cameron Forest) to use the courts as the 'home court' for the group.

The Indians from Cameron Forest won their division, mostly through tightly contested 3-2 matches. Thums-Up won its first round playoff match fairly comfortably on a rainy Saturday. The second-round (quarter-final) match was nearly a disaster for Thums Up. Facing top-notch opponents, each pair had to fight it out to the finish. Despite the 3-1 final result, the match could have gone either way. Ironically, the semi-final was played in the unincorporated city of Madras, south of Atlanta. "Ironic" because most of the players come from Madras, a city in Southern India. In that round, Thums-Up recovered from a nail-biting, three-set loss for its first pair to win the match and move on to the finals of the ALTA city championship.

In ALTA, teams are broadly grouped (based on skill level) under A, B or C categories with a numerical sub-grouping under each letter, from 1 to 8 or 9 (with 1 being the most skilled). Teams are then organized into divisions of six to eight teams of the about the same skill level. During the regular season each team plays five doubles matches against every other team, and the top two teams in each division make it to the playoffs. In the playoffs, which follow a knockout format, the two top teams from each division compete against the two top teams of other divisions.

The ALTA city championships are played in a festival-like atmosphere in large tennis complexes spread throughout Atlanta. Multiple matches are staged simultaneously. The B Division finals were held at the Lake Windward tennis center in Alpharetta, where Thums-Up took on a team from the Three Chimneys Subdivision. In keeping with the rest of the season, the Indian team had to make the win an exciting one. After winning the first two matches easily, the third and fourth pairs gave the team's many supporters and spectators near heart attacks before the third pair hit the winning shot that brought the B-8 city champion title to the Indians from Cameron Forest.

"Our team is mentally tough, and we tend to play in the present, not thinking about the past or the future. We are self-motivated and nobody feels the need to use an ALTA championship as an incentive. Many of us don't pay attention to that kind of stuff anyway" remarked Niraj Sharma, one of the players on the team

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