Arjun Kadhe, the tall Punekar has multiple hats on his head. After completing his studies at Oklahoma State University where he honed his tennis skills playing for it, he came back to professional tennis last year. Even though he was away from professional tennis for close to four years, his results show that he has made the most of the training there.
In a telephonic discussion with him while he was preparing for the Fergana Challenger in Uzbekistan, Arjun took me through his journey and his mission ahead.
ME: Thanks Arjun for giving your time from your busy tour schedule.
Arjun Kadhe: Pleasure is mine.
ME: You have been hitting the news for the right scorelines. Looks like you are enjoying your professional tour life again?
Arjun Kadhe: My decision to go to the US for college tennis was a close call. I was doing well as a junior and also started playing well in the senior circuit in India, thus at times it was a tough decision to make. Now I realize that it was a good call as I have become a better tennis player and a better person as well. Life there taught me to prioritize things well and all the good things that I learnt there will definitely help me as a person. Also I got lucky there as I played against players where already playing in the ITF circuit. Also I had a good coach in Jay Udwadia and fitness coach as Nick.
ME: You said it was a close call. For such a decision who all did you consult and what all were the factors you considered?
Arjun Kadhe: I consulted Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh as they themselves have gone though the same route. I also spoke to Leander as he is a senior professional always willing to help. Even though my parents were not sure of my going there, I was convinced as to what I was looking for. I choose a college which had a good focus on tennis and where I could train well and play a lot of matches.
ME: And how has been the transition from college tennis to professional tennis?
Arjun Kadhe: It was initially a bit of a different feeling. In college you play as a team and practice and do all sorts of things together. When you are in the circuit you are on your own most of the time. Also, now I have to pay my own bills (as he😊)
ME: Also you had a different coaching and fitness training regime there, so is it that you had to again switch to a different regime here?
Arjun Kadhe: Coaching and training wise I did not find it difficult to adjust. Hemant Sir is always there and he has coached me right from my young days. Also fitness training, Gaurav Nijhon is quite up to date so it was not difficult. He carried forward the great fitness regime that I had under Nick while I was in the US.
But the most difficult part that I found after coming back to India was finding the right hitting partners. This was because when I was in college in the US we all played together and it was a normal routine for us to train together. But during my initial days after coming back to India, one good thing was that Ankita Raina was there with us so I practiced with her. Even though men and women game might be different but to have an experienced professional like her to be around me did help.
ME: Also, after coming back to the tour how did you set your target? Any target you set and how have you managed to handle it?
Arjun Kadhe: Yes we as a team had set a target of reaching inside 500 on the ATP at the end of 2017. I did achieve the target and we are on course for the next milestones.
Arjun Kadhe – Stretching the limits.
ME: That is one pertinent question I want to ask you. How does a professional player like you manage to find hitting partners in India where the quantity of quality hitting partners will always be low?
Arjun Kadhe: That problem was there when I first came back to India. But now that I am full time on the tour for about 35 weeks for the year, I anyways do not have to be too concerned about that.
ME: You have been playing both singles and doubles on the tour. How do you manage to balance it and it also must be physically quite demanding?
Arjun Kadhe: Yes it is tiring but it is okay. At this moment I need to play both. Both complement each other well. For example, doubles help me make my net game better which also helps me in my singles play. Also I have a great doubles partner in Alex Dawson who happens to be a good friend of mine which makes it fun.
ME: Also of late you have been playing a lot more Challengers than ITF Futures. Is this the way forward?
Arjun Kadhe: Yes going forward I will play more of Challengers than ITF Futures. Currently because my ranking is just a bit low, I am going through the grind of playing the qualifying rounds of the Challengers. It will now be 90 percent of Challengers that I will play from the whole lot.
ME: Indian players are showing great depth in singles now. Yuki, Ramkumar and Prajnesh are on top of their game and competing well against the best in the business. Does it motivate you in some way?
Arjun Kadhe: Yes, it definitely does. Adding to that even a guy like Mukund is showing good results. It inspires the rest of us that it is possible for Indians to be world beaters.
ME: Also it is said that Indians mature and peak a bit late. So I guess with your age, you are going to peak in sometime too.
Arjun Kadhe: Yes, Dr. Vace Paes (Leander Paes` father) said to me that Indian players peak from 24 to 29 years. So I am currently 24 years and so I am looking forward to my best level of tennis now. Part of the reason of the longevity of players in general is because of advancement in terms of advanced training, diets and the change in mindset as well.
ME: Now that you are mostly on tour, how do you schedule your training when you are not on tour?
Arjun Kadhe: As you can see, I am hardly of the tour now. But when I will not be playing on tour, then I will divide my training schedule between Hemant Sir at PYC Gymkhana in Pune and maybe training abroad as well.
ME: What is your typical training schedule?
Arjun Kadhe: When I am training at PYC, I do tennis training from 7.30 am to 9.30 am. From 11.00 am to 12.30 pm I do my fitness training at the Gymnasium and the cricket ground at PYC. Then I take a small lunch of say a sandwich and then finish my day at around 2.30 pm. I have my lunch at around 3.00 pm at home.
ME: How about your diet? Are your strict about it?
Arjun Kadhe: Actually if you ask me, I grew up as a big foodie and was on the chubbier side when I was young. Gradually when I saw players around me taking so much care about their own body and diet, I also started building those good habits. Now it has become a routine to have healthy food. But once in a while I indulge in my favorite food and I end up having Chicken Tikka Masala in Indian restaurants even while being abroad.
ME: Now that you are on your own on the tour, how about the sponsorship part?
Arjun Kadhe: I guess sponsorship will always go hand in hand with performance. That way I feel I have been pretty lucky. I had some sponsorship during my junior days.
Now I have recently signed up with Yonex for racquet sponsorship. I am also under MSLTA Vision 2020 Program which has been helping me financially. Someway or the other I have had good help from somewhere.
ME: How do your analyse your own game? What are your strength and where do you want to improve upon?
Arjun Kadhe: Strength is my serve and forehand. Also I love coming to the net and being aggressive. I would like to improve more on my fitness and movement and I am working hard on it.
ME: Also you seem to be juggling between both hard and clay courts. You seem to love both.
Arjun Kadhe: My favorite surface is hard but now I have started liking clay too.
ME: With such a busy schedule how do you manage to have your own fun time? If time permits what do you like to do?
Arjun Kadhe: When on tour I hang around with the players. Also, nowadays you have a lot of Indian players playing the same tournaments. Currently in Uzbekistan we have 5 Indian players playing here and we try to find time together.
Also I love movies and manage to see a few with my friends when I am in India. Also I love a few of the TV shows. Often I try to read a book while being in the flight.
ME: I know you have a match day after tomorrow so you need to rest so I will not take more time. But it was indeed great talking to you and may you keep on getting stronger every passing day. Thanks a lot for your time and all the best for your future.
Arjun Kadhe: Thanks to you too and all the best for your great work towards promoting Indian tennis.