Women have played an integral part in terms of its contribution in any society. In Indian tennis, women have and will play an indispensable role forever. When we talk about Women`s tennis in India, we will only tend to think of the female players. However we need to give equal importance to the support system that comes in the form of other women folk. Unlike a team sport, tennis is often a lonely sport and players have be continuously on the move, be it for training or to pick up the valuable points on the tour. Thus at a young age, it is often the mother who accompany their child to every nook and corner of the world. As for a few others, they spend their time taking good care of the strict diet and health of the budding tennis kid. On this Women`s Day special, I pay tribute to the countless Women, who as players or as supporting mothers, sisters, grandmothers etc have contributed to the rise of Indian tennis.
The Women Gang –
- Ankita Raina & Lalita Raina : Ankita Raina has been India`s No.1 Women`s singles player for quite sometime. If you talk about grit and determination, Ankita has shown plenty of it. Life has not been a bed of roses for this Gujarat born Kashmiri Pandit. In a sport where her contemporaries often found the comfort of doubles play as an alternative, she has fought on and on. Not that she was a prodigy and thus had to take the difficult path. A path where as a teenager she had to take those long and arduous hours of train journey and stay frugally to fight for every single point on the tour. No wonder the fruits of success are starting to show for this 25-year-old now. She stamped her class in the Fed Cup winning all her 4 singles matches. En route, she beat players much higher ranked than herself. It was followed up with a fighting performance against the former US Open Champion Samantha Stosur in the prestigious Dubai Duty Free Championship. As we speak, she has just finished another tournament in China and when I asked her about her mother`s contribution, she could not hold back.
When I asked Ankita for two lines about her mother, she said ” Two lines will be too less to describe about my mom`s contribution. She is a role model of selflessness. Her sacrifices for both the children including my brother are incomparable. Her never giving up attitude, her ability to find the positives even in failures and then getting back at it until the job is done”.
2. Karman Kaur Thandi & Rajandeep Thandi – Close on the heels of Ankita Raina is the 19-year-old Karman Kaur Thandi. The tall and strongly built girl is going from strength to strength. Currently India`s No.2 Women`s tennis player, she even had the distinction of being the No.1 in India for a week. An early protege of Mahesh Bhupathi, she vindicated his faith on her and has taken full advantage of the opportunity offered to her. Coached by Aditya Sachdeva when she is in India, she also trains at the famed Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in France. With a strong game and age behind her, she can get only get better with time. But she says that her journey till now would not have been even half of it without her mother, Rajandeep Tahndi.
I caught up with her after her hard training at Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi. Karman talks about her mother, Rajandeep Thandi emotionally, “Whatever I am today is because of my mom. Out of our hard work together, I would say that she has done more than me for me to be where I am today. He has been always there for me through ups and downs. No matter what, my mom will always remain as my pillar of strength, my support system and my everything. As a tennis player, she helps me to be disciplined in my routines and follow them day in and day out. Inspire me to never give up and be a fighter”. This strong mother-daughter combination is giving India the hope for the international tennis map.
3. Zeel Desai & Sejal Desai – Zeel Desai may not be in the same league as Ankita Raina and Karman Kaur Thandi but at the age of 19 years she is still doing a decent job. In the Junior Australian Open 2017, she reached the quarter final which is a rare feat for an Indian. She is also the current Runner-Up at the Fenesta National Championship. She is currently training at the Ahmedabad Racquet Academy under the tutelage of the Australian Coach, Todd Clarke.
Her mother, Sejal Desai has been primarily responsible for her tennis career.
Zeel says that ” Yeah my mom supports me a lot and she travels with me everywhere and she leaves all social functions for my tennis. She has played such a big role in my tennis”.
4. Tanisha Kashyap & Ruby Kalita – Tanisha Kashyap is today undoubtedly India`s one of the finest juniors in the girls category. The 16-year-old Assamese born girl set the Fenesta Nationals 2017 on fire. Not only did she comfortably win the Under-16 category, she even reached the semi final of both the Women`s and Under-18 category. The family has been based in Saudi Arabia but Tanisha came to India for a year to hone her skill under former Indian Davis Cupper Vishal Uppal. Her immediate plan is to start playing the ITF Women`s circuit and also train abroad. She is full time into tennis and takes online education.
Her mother comes across as an energetic person who put Tanisha in sports at a very early age. Even before she turned 3-years-old, Ruby Kalita made her daughter taste the water of the swimming pool. As Tanisha grew up, both mother and daughter used to run half marathons at the slightest of opportunity.
For Tanisha, her mother is her tour mom. She travels along with her and takes very keen interest on her tennis. Another notable thing is that her mother also takes care of her diet very closely. We expect to see Tanisha maturing in the next few years and take on the world.
5. Salsa Aher & Tejaswinee Aher – Salsa Aher from Pune is one of the most hard working girls in the Indian tennis circuit. This 16-year-old student from Symbiosis has made tennis her life. She believes that she was not that great during her early years but her hard work has made her game good. She was the winner at the Under-16 Fenesta Nationals 2016 who also made into the semi-final of the WTA Futures Stars, 2017 in Singapore. She trains at the Bounce Academy under Kedar Shah and her morning training starts as early as 6.30 am till 11.00 am. A girl who gives a lot of importance to her fitness, her evening is dedicated to fitness training apart from tennis.
But all this would not have been possible without the sacrifice of her mother, Tejaswinee Aher. A qualified Civil Engineer who quit her job so that she can devote her time for her daughter`s tennis.
Everyday, Salsa`s mother drops her and pick her up from her training. Also she travels with her daughter for the tournaments. With Salsa`s eyeing for direct entry into the Junior Grand Slams as an immediate goal, this strong mother-daughter duo gets more focused and busy.
The Big Boys Need Them Too-
6. Arjun Kadhe & Rashmi Kadhe – Arjun Kadhe is a name that is making quick rounds in the Indian tennis circuit. The 24-year-old completed his studies at the Oklahoma State University and is playing his first full time professional tennis. It is to his credit that even after the hiatus from the tour, he has already managed to be around 500 on the ATP.
As we speak, he is currently at Kolkatta playing a ITF and had already reached the quarter final. Even then, he has time to speak about her mother. Her mother Rashmi Kadhe has been the motivating factor behind his tennis.
Arjun tells me, ” My mom has always given me the strength and she manages to find different ways to motivate me. From a young age, she taught me to be mentally strong, cool and a humble person. My mom is a big reason for what I am as a person and a tennis player”. With Arjun going from strength to strength who even pocketed last week`s ITF in Bhubaneshwar, we are sure that all his mother`s sacrifice is going to bear more fruits.
7. Suraj Prabodh, Thejavathi Prabodh & Shakuntala Setty – Suraj Prabodh is a late bloomer and he starting to show results and going in the right direction. The Fenesta Nationals Runner-Up is currently training hard at the Harvest Tennis Academy.
Like Arjun, he is also currently competing at the ITF in Kolkatta. As for him he has not one but two Women in his life who has shown him the way. He owes it to both his mother, Thejavathi Prabodh and his grandmother, Shakuntala Setty.
He tells me, ” I think it is because of my Mom and my Grandma`s affection and her nutritious diet that she prepares specially for me, I feel physically strong. Even today, my Grandmother feeds my lunch and dinner. This is the best thing that I will always cherish”. May he keep on growing stronger.