I am available for Olympics: Bhupathi

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Kolkata, Sep 23 (UNI) Indian tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi today said that he was available to represent the country in next year's Beijing Olympics.

''As I have said earlier, I am available for the Olympics. And the rest is now up to the Indian Olympic Association and the All India Tennis Association,'' Bhupathi told a media meet ahead of the final Sunfeast Open here, which his company is the promoting.

A decline in the number of spectators this time round was largely attributed to the absence of Sania Mirza and the the Twenty20 World Cup.

''The absence of Sania Mirza has affected the numbers present in the stadium. The Twenty20 World Cup too had diverted people's interests from this tournament. But we could not do much about the scheduling,'' Bhupathi said.

''But thankfully we are not dependent on the crowd factor to run the tournament. We raise our money through the sponsorship and TV rights. The crowd is for the players. It's a spectator sport and the money is the little extra we make,'' he said.

However, he did not seem to be too confident with the prospects of Indian players participation in the tournament. ''Definitely, tennis as a whole hasn't grown much in our country, especially the women's tennis. That notwithstanding, you cannot produce a world champion in a short time. But, players like Tara Iyer, Ankita Bhambri and others have been given opportunities. Now, it's upto them to make good use of these opportunities,'' Bhupathi stressed.

On the other hand, he made it clear that promotion of tennis is not the only objective behind running this tournament. ''I am running a tournament of this magnitude and if I say that I am doing only for the promotion of the game, it would be wrong,'' he said.

''We like to make money through sponsorship rather bank on ticket sales,'' he added.

Asked with the Sunfeast Open already in the third year, had done anything positive for tennis in India, he said: ''Well you can't really produce a tennis player in three years. But we are giving Indian players the opportunity to play in these tournaments. We offer wildcards to almost all Indian players. They have to utilize the opportunity.

''Today, there are two WTA and two ATP meets in India. When we were young, we didn't have such opportunities,''Bhupathi said.

UNI

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