For long, Sasi Kumar Mukund had been the struggler on the ITF circuit. Last year, he dispelled that belief by wining two back to back ITF tournaments in India. As a man on a mission, he has enhanced his reputation as a player by doing well in the Challengers of late. Coming as a qualifier in the high end Anning Challenger and Karshi Challenger he reached the quarter finals. Enroute he beat players of the calibre of Quentin Halys, Duckhee Lee, Nikola Milojevic etc thus announcing his arrival on the bigger stage of the circuit.
In a freewheeling chat with Sasi, I uncover his exciting journey in tennis thus far and his life on the tour.
ME: So Sasi, what about this new found game of yours? I mean you are on a real high now?
Sasi Kumar Mukund: Honestly it means nothing to me. It is just part of the process and still a very long way to go. Few big wins here and a few bad losses there will not change my life. But improving my tennis will. So I am focused on that.
ME: That is a great way of looking at things. Now talking about improving your tennis, where do you think you still need to improve upon?
Sasi Kumar Mukund: Fitness. As for the other things, small changes here and there are okay but my main focus is to improve upon my fitness.
ME: I guess this has always been a problem with our Indian guys. Part of the problem is because you do not have a travelling fitness trainer. I mean you guys play almost every week so recovery is not easy.
Sasi Kumar Mukund: No, not all Indian guys. Only me in the whole lot I would say. Everybody else is very fit. I do not know whom are you pointing at.
ME: I mean in general I am saying don`t you think a travelling fitness trainer always helps? For example, look at Yuki who is a transformed player when it comes to fitness and he give much credit to Abhimanyu Singh for that.
Sasi Kumar Mukund: Well at my age, I still have a lot more to learn in terms of tennis. As for Yuki, I might have a different opinion when it came to choosing a travelling fitness trainer over a travelling coach. Of course, Yuki is a great gift to Indian tennis however I feel that we are tennis players and not 100 metres sprinters. So you need a travelling coach. Then you can have a fitness plan which you should follow rigorously yourself.
One can look at a top 120 or even a top 100 standing in 8 years time for me, but my coach is looking for much bigger things. So for that to achieve, I have to be fit. But if someone is travelling with you, he is doing that to help you win matches and not do fitness.
ME: So you mean to say you prefer a travelling coach and then a travelling fitness trainer.
Sasi Kumar Mukund: Yes any day. I think it is the right thing to do. Unless an exception like Yuki or Saki (Saketh Myneni), where being healthy is the number one priority.
ME: Indeed it is great that you still have age on your side. So when you said that your coach has bigger plans for you what are those plans?
Sasi Kumar Mukund: He thinks I can be a very good player. He feels that I can be very dangerous on the court and play aggressive tennis.
ME: What do you think are your major weapons? I mean in modern tennis everyone talks about at least major weapon.
Sasi Kumar Mukund: I do not see one shot that is not my weapon. Earlier it was volleys and slice which was not on the stronger side. Also forehand was not a weapon. But after technical changes over the last few weeks, everything seems to be like a weapon.
ME: Now that the clay court season is almost over where you did well how do you start your hard court season. I mean which will be your next stop?
Sasi Kumar Mukund: For my ranking, clay or hard does not matter. I am not in that stage as of yet. I play wherever I can. I am next playing the Kazakasthan Challenger on clay and Uzbekistan Challenger on hard. Also I do not have any favourite surface. I enjoy playing on all the surfaces.
ME: Also does your coach travel regularly with you or only on a few selected tournaments?
Sasi Kumar Mukund: Martin Spottel is my coach and travels with me regularly. He has been my coach since 12th Feb this year. Also he coaches 2-3 other players. In a way it is good that we all travel together and it helps in practice, accommodation and in many other ways.
ME: You had two major bases in India, Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad.
Sasi Kumar Mukund: My family is from Tamil Nadu but I developed into a player in Hyderabad. Hyderabad is where I grew up and my friends, values, coaches and everything else come from Hyderabad. At one point of time in the year 2012 because of some emergency, I had to shift to Tamil Nadu. Otherwise I am a typical Hyderabadi😊
ME: How did your tennis journey start? When did you pick up your first tennis racquet and when did you realise that you are enough to play it professionally?
Sasi Kumar Mukund: My Dad wanted me to start playing tennis. I picked it up in the year 2000 and I realised only 3 weeks back that I am good enough to take it up professionally .
ME: You mean 3 weeks back😊😊
Sasi Kumar Mukund: Yes you heard that right.
ME: What is your normal training day when you are not on tour. If you can break it up and for how many hours.
Sasi Kumar Mukund: I have 2 sessions of tennis and 2 sessions of fitness. In the morning session, fitness is followed by tennis. In the evening, tennis is followed by fitness.
I do it for 5-6 hours.
ME: With such a busy schedule do you have time for yourself? If yes how do you spend your time off the court?
ME: Do you have any sponsor?
Sasi Kumar Mukund: Yeah! My Dad.
ME: Another witty one 😊😊
Sasi Kumar Mukund: No it is a fact. Sponsor is someone who pays for you and does not expect you to pay it back. So for me it is my Dad😊
ME: Who are your models and why?
Sasi Kumar Mukund: Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Sriram Balaji and my trainer Javier Capitaine.
Look at Prajnesh. He could have easily sit in his father`s company after being injured for 5 long years but he did not. He followed his dream when people laughed at him
As for Sriram, many a times he did not have tickets to return home from tournaments. He was looked down upon by many but he always keeps going. These guys fought for their destinies.
As for my trainer, I simply respect him for the way he is. For everything.
ME: So Javier is your travelling trainer?
Sasi Kumar Mukund: No, he is my trainer but does not travel with me. I used to train with him when I was in Barcelona.
Now that I have a temporary training base in Vienna, he sends the plan in a document and I follow it.
ME: How about your diet? Do you have a strict dietary plan or it varies?
Sasi Kumar Mukund: I follow a diet for being healthy in general. Because my trainer is a professor so I follow a few things like not having diary products, sugary items and very limited fruits. You may ask why no to fruits.This is because fruits is water with sugar at the end of day. But in match days I do have bananas often.
ME: Do you have any short term goals in terms of rankings. Seeing your own game where do you think you can end up by 2018.
Sasi Kumar Mukund: No idea. I can be a better player and a better person. As for ranking I do not know as so many factors are there.
ME: Sasi, thank you so much for your time. You have been brilliant of court too. Wishing you all the best for more glory.
Sasi Kumar Mukund: Same here. All were great questions. Also do keep on promoting Indian tennis.