The former pro reached out to the tennis fraternity during the Covid-19 pandemic to give back to the sport

Somdev Devvarman started an NGO, ‘Life is a Ball’ after retiring from the tennis circuit.

First published:

Saving the break out

By helming the campaign ‘Love All’, Somdev Devvarman is trying to help Indian tennis survive Covid

A few weeks ago, while discussing the future of tennis with former Fed Cup captain Enrico Piperno, Somdev Devvarman realised the far-reaching impact that the COVID-19 pandemic would have on the sport. Though the initial conversation was about the lack of an income for players on tour, his mind soon rushed back to all the people who had helped him during his days as a professional. He thought of the markers, linesmen and ball kids who were now without any means or income. After a brainstorming session with friends, Devvarman decided to step up and give back to the community through a campaign called ‘Love All’.

“The tennis fraternity is a big one, so I decided to reach out and raise funds. Then, I asked a bunch of close buddies and coaches to identify those who were not being paid at various club houses and smaller courts. I wanted it to be as transparent as possible, so these recommendations were the way to go,” Devvarman says.

Folks like Sania Mirza, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna stepped up to spread the word and take the campaign forward. Through his NGO, ‘Life is a Ball’, which has been promoting sports among school children, Devvarman started receiving funds. After identifying the right candidates, he disbursed small amounts to recipients in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Agartala. In just three weeks, they had raised around Rs 6 lakh.

“It’s not like we are reaching out to hundreds of people in every city, the growth is very organic,” says Devvarman. “This is also a hard time for most people, since everyone is wondering where their next pay cheque will come from, so it’s a tricky situation when I ask someone to donate. I hope to reach out to big companies next to see if they can help,” he says.

On the professional front, Devvarman has floated the idea of extending interest-free loans with the Association of Tennis Professionals. He compares a tennis player’s current situation to that of any start-up. “The players are facing the same problem as entrepreneurs. If they can avail of loans, firstly, only those who need it will apply. A loan also makes more sense since you can expect some of it back in the future,” he says.

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