Olympics 2016 is round the corner again, this time to be held in Rio de Janeiro, and we Vizagites have our own stake put in for the games. Saketh Myneni, our very own Tennis pro has been chosen by Rohan Bopanna over Leander Paes to be his partner. Bopanna wrote to the All India Tennis Association regarding his choice saying, he earned his right to select his own partner for the Rio Olympics and hoping the AITA supports his decision. It is also likely that Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna will be paired up for the mixed doubles.
Check out our interview with Saketh Myneni who featured on our cover in 2014:
Crisp. Sharp. Quick. Saketh Myneni is as to-the-point a person as the game he plays. Hear him out as he talks about his game, his goals and much more.
“I never watched tennis till you started playing” says an aunt unabashedly, as she hugs the six footer, while a little girl who barely reaches up till Saketh’s knees runs around. “Sania Mirza chose to play the mixed doubles with him.” A friend informs someone on the phone.
Needless to say it’s an excited household we’ve stepped into. And of course, they have reason to be so. Saketh Myneni, a Vizag born lad has made not just his family, but also the city proud, by ringing in not one, but two medals at the recent Asian games in Incheon, South Korea. Having brought in a gold medal (Mixed doubles with Sania Mirza) and a silver (Men’s doubles with Sanam Singh) at the first ever Asian games he participated in, there was no stopping him. Saketh went on to win the Challenger tennis tournament at Indore club against Ramkumar Ramanathan on 18th October and top seed Aleksandr Nedovyesov as well, thus winning himself not just the trophy, but 80 ATP points as well. He has thus jumped to the 283rd rank in the ATP Singles chart. His current ranking in ATP is 126.
Starting with Love A Vizagite, born in the city, he started his schooling at Timpany. His initial tryst with tennis began at the local tennis courts and at Century Club, where his father was a member. “I was always interested in outdoor sports of some kind, but when I turned 11; I knew it was going to be tennis for me. I picked up the sport faster than many others and my visual learning capabilities made me good at the game from the start.” Even his coach at Vizag, P. K. Kishore in an interview remembered Saketh being an enthusiastic learner.
His family shifted to Hyderabad when he was 14 years old, to help him pursue his passion of playing professional tennis. He later went to the US to the University of Alabama on a sports scholarship for his undergraduate studies where he double majored in finance and economics, while giving just as much importance to his game. There too he won many accolades and was ranked as high as 10 in singles & 14 in doubles. He was awarded the 2009 Blue Gray National Collegiate Tennis Classic Sportsmanship award, named the ‘ITA Southeast region Player to watch out for’ in 2009-10 and an ESPN Magazine Academic All-America Men’s At-Large team 2010. “I always wanted to play and represent India,” he says, and so Saketh returned in 2011, when he began playing professionally at Hyderabad. “Life in the US made me meet different people from across cultures. I make friends easily and thus could get along with people faster.”
Making Dreams happen His determination furthered his pro tennis dream in India as well, and he started playing professional matches. “We would play at Sania Mirza’s academy in Hyderabad, Secunderabad Club or at the LB stadium”, he says, adding that he knew right from the start that he’d play top level tennis one day. It was after all his passion and drive right from when he was a young boy. But it wasn’t just his passion that fuelled his dream. “My parents were always extremely supportive. My interest in tennis was the reason why we shifted to Hyderabad. I guess being an only child helped me get all the attention and support,” he adds smiling.
Factors seemed to have worked in his favour, but Saketh says that it takes a lot to get there. “You need to have a goal. Knowing where you want to be after the next five years is really important, not just in tennis, but in whatever you do.” He also added that networking came as his big advantage. “It’s my personality. I make friends easily. And that companionship is really important, especially in mixed doubles.”
He goes on to say that, it was this getting-along well and his matching style of play that were perhaps an important reason why Sania Mirza chose to play with him. Being a top and experienced player, she gets to choose her partner in mixed doubles. And Saketh did not disappoint. He’s also extremely good friends with Sanam Singh, his partner in the men’s doubles.
Talking with his racquet, playing with his heart So what is the game for him about, and what determines success. “It’s a mix of factors. You need to be well-prepared. You need to be confident. Having patience to do it over and over again, when you choose such a career is vital. And in doubles, you need to be able to communicate with your partner so that you can play as a team.”
Talking about training facilities and infrastructure, Saketh says that much has changed over the past ten years. “Initially when I began there wasn’t much in terms of infrastructure. But today infrastructure and facility wise, we are better but there is still a long way to go. Also, all training centres may not suit your individual need. You need to find a way to identify the kind of centre you require.” Asked if there was any change he’d like to see in the city for training he says that, “We don’t have hard courts here, those would really help for juniors.”
The Asian games have definitely been not just Saketh’s but India’s big moment as well. And with Saketh being from Vizag, this becomes a special occasion for us as well. At the recent Asian games, he shares with us the fascinating experience of being there. “There were people from different sports and varied countries. And it was nice to see them competing in the spirit of the game. We didn’t see much of the city as we were busy training or playing. Understanding Korean was tough too, because it’s a different language.”
A Parting Shot When he’s not busy with tennis matches, Saketh says that he loves to relax, go out with friends, watch movies and listen to music. His next goal is to participate in the 2016 Olympics, for which he needs to get into the top 100 rankings list of the International Tennis Federation. For this, he has to play Grand Slam events too. As an ending note, we ask him, “If you weren’t playing tennis today, what would you have been doing?” He laughs and thinks for a minute, “I would perhaps have been an engineer or a doctor.” And we know that whatever he would have been, with his goal in place, determination and support, he’d have been a smashing hit!
What his family says We are no exception. Like every parent would be, we too were very happy and proud with Saketh’s achievement. We always had the confidence and belief that Saketh will play tennis at the top level. It’s wonderful to watch him play and whenever we do, he already seems like a winner. He plays so beautifully and smoothly that you would know he will achieve so much in life. People who play tennis have always praised him in such a way which made us more confident about him. Also, he has much more potential than this and he has more places to go. Asian games is just the beginning. So while we’re extremely happy about it, we want to see him grow and become a top player and make it to the top 50 or so. As parents, we never force him to do anything. Also, whatever we did for him, like relocating to Hyderabad etc., we don’t consider them as hardships and never felt burdened. We were doing it for our son and are happy to see him play and grow as a tennis player.
Here’s hoping our Vizag boy does us proud at the Rio Olympics!