Sriram Balaji has been around the professional circuit for quite a while now. The 28-Year-Old from Coimbatore with a solid game has been fighting hard in the circuit and success was round the corner. The fruit of labour came in the sweetest form when he played in none less than arguably the biggest stage of world tennis, the Wimbledon this year. Teaming up with Vishnu Vardhan, the duo came through the qualifying rounds and made it to the second round of the main draw.
Since then his confidence has been sky high and I spoke to him as he landed in India for a few days after another long months in the circuit.
ME: I know it has been nearly a month since the Wimbledon but has the feeling of playing in one of the sports` greatest venues still sunk in?
Sriram Balaji: It was definitely one of the proudest moments in both our (me and Vishnu) lives playing at the Wimbledon. First Slam is always special. Wimbledon has given us a lot of confidence to take our careers to another level. Now we are looking forward to the future.
ME: How much of confidence do you take from the Wimbledon exploits? Also the second round loss against the 14th seed was very close and could have gone either ways.
Sriram Balaji: Qualifying and beating top 50 players in the first round gave us a lot of confidence. And also captain (Mahesh Bhupathi) and Bops (Rohan Bopanna) helped us get through every match in terms of strategies and how to approach.
The second round match against the 14th seed was very close as there was only one break of serve in the entire match. They are a quality team and we were close with them and we take this as a positive step in our direction upwards.
Sriram Balaji (front) along with Vishnu Vardhan (behind) at the Wimbledon 2018
ME: Vishnu Vardhan and you have now settled in as regular partners. How long did it take to understand each other`s game and complement each other better?
Sriram Balaji: We have been playing together for almost 4 years now. We are close friends off the court and both our families are close too. We are from a similar family background and we think alike. I believe because of these reasons we share a very a good bond on the court too.
ME: How much has the stint at Alexander Waske Tennis University helped your game?
Sriram Balaji: I am highly indebted to the academy. Basically that is where I learnt about professionalism. Even after going there it took me more than a year to start showing results. All the coaches are more like a family to me now.
ME: After your strong showing in recent times did you not expect a call for the Asian Games? How much has it affected you?
Sriram Balaji: In fact we did expect a call as we are the only team playing together in the circuit and we did quite well recently too. All we need is India to be back with as many medals as possible. It is not going to affect us in anyway and we are going to keep moving forward. But playing the Asian games would have been huge motivation for both of us.
ME: For all practical reasons, doubles will be your priority. However will you still play singles selectively on the sidelines of the same tournaments?
Sriram Balaji: I still enjoy playing singles. I believe I can beat any good player on a given day. It is just that I have been playing tour events for doubles and not getting an opportunity to play singles.
ME: What are your short term and long term goals?
Sriram Balaji: Short term goal is to get inside 70 in the ranking so that we can get into the Australian Open. Our long term is winning a Grand Slam which I believe we can achieve if we keep on working hard and focusing on our game.
ME: How does the tag of being the first Indian army man to play the Wimbledon feel like?
Sriram Balaji: Being an army man, seeing the tricolor next to my name at the Wimbledon is definitely a proud feeling. I have been getting all the support from MEG and Centre. There will be more army men playing at the slams soon.
ME: You might already be 28 years but players nowadays having better longevity , adding to the fact that you are playing doubles you still have a long career in front of you. How do you prepare yourself mentally and physically for that?
Sriram Balaji: Nowadays even singles players peak at 30. So for me age is just a number as long as you are fit and ready to compete week in and week out.
ME: Can you tell us about your typical training regime in terms of hours when you are not on tour? This will help our young players.
Sriram Balaji: During training period I play for 2-3 hours of tennis and 1 hour of fitness (alternating physical and gym). I believe quality training is much more effective than quantity.
ME: Also what is your diet when you are training and when you are on tour?
Sriram Balaji: I do not have any timetable for diet. I avoid eating any junk, oily and sweets. Every individual is different.
ME: How do you spend your off time when you are not playing?
Sriram Balaji: On tour I am always with Vishnu. During off time we usually watch movies or comedies. And planning about next trips 😊
ME: Thank you so much Bala. It was indeed a pleasure taking to you. Also enjoy your stay in India and wishing you all the best for your future.
Sriram Balaji: Thanks to you too. Also all the best to you on your work of promoting Indian tennis.