‘Consistency is the key’

MOHAMMED YOUSUF

"My first target is to break into the top 300 at the earliest," says India’s No. 2 player, Prarthana Thombare, who has decided to shift base from Pune to Hyderabad and be a full-time trainee at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy. By V. V. Subrahmanyam.

The Sania Mirza Tennis Academy is fast becoming the epicentre of tennis activity — to be more precise a training centre for some of the leading names in Indian tennis. India’s No. 2, Prarthana Thombare, who won the women’s doubles bronze partnering Sania in last year’s Asian Games, has decided to shift base from Pune to Hyderabad and be a full-time trainee at the Academy.

It may be recalled that some of the best players in the Indian men’s circuit, including Saketh Myneni, were there at the Academy recently to fine-tune their skills.

“I have a special affinity with this venue since I won the ITF $10,000 singles event the last time I played here. And, most importantly, training with someone like Sania, who is my childhood idol, should only help my cause,” says Prarthana, who is now ranked World No. 490 in singles.

“Given the fact that I had a pretty decent showing in 2014, I had to take a critical decision and this one to join Sania is probably the most decisive of all moves so far in my career,” feels the 20-year-old Prarthana.

Interestingly, Prarthana has had sweet memories of Hyderabad. Recently, she was a member of the Indian team, led by Sania, in the Asia-Oceania Group II of the Fed Cup which the host won. “Yes, it was a highly satisfying event and playing with Sania in doubles there was even more special,” she added.

“My first target is to break into the top 300 at the earliest. I am aware that it is not going to be easy and requires a lot of hard work. But I can say confidently that I will never be found wanting in terms of putting in the desired efforts,” says the talented youngster.

“I always believe in setting small goals and take it step by step and not talk big. Consistency is the key and that is what I will continue to maintain. And this is exactly the reason why I joined SMTA — to be a much better player,” says Prarthana.

Her backhand is talked about very highly by the critics, who at the same time, feel that her forehand needs to be improved for her to be more effective.

Interestingly, Prarthana loves clay surface and she was obviously delighted with her first training stint at the SMTA in the company of Sania, who flew into the city after the early loss in the Stuttgart Open (after becoming the World No. 1 in women’s doubles). “We discuss a lot about tennis and I try my best to pick important aspects of the game. I also believe that learning is a continuous process,” says the modest girl from Pune. “More than the game, I love the warmth of Sania and also the way she keeps every trainee in high spirits with her easy-going attitude,” she added.

It may sound strange but Prarthana, who has won some of the major titles including the Asian bronze, is without a main sponsor and is looking for one. This B.A. final year student can now be more optimistic as former Andhra Ranji Trophy captain V. Chamundeswarnath has promised to take up her cause with all sincerity. He played a big role in players like Sania, Jwala Gutta, Shruthi Kurien and Mithali Raj getting sponsorships or major incentives from corporate groups, very early in their careers.

“Yes, Pune-based Lakshya has been my co-sponsors till now. But, it is a fact that I do need a major sponsor if my career has to take an upswing, since I need to compete in more international events to keep improving my ranking,” says Prarthana.

It has been a highly satisfying journey so far for Prarthana, who comes from a small town, Barshi, in Sholapur which couldn’t boast of even a tennis court when she started her career. Luckily, with her parents — Ghulab Rao (civil engineer) and Varsha (entrepreneur) — deciding to back her to the hilt, this young champion can focus more on the game what with the likes of Sania and her father Imran Mirza guiding her destiny.

“She is good and can go a long way. We hope she will benefit from the training at SMTA,” they say.

The big test for Prarthana can well be the ITF event in Indonesia from May 24 and she is optimistic of putting up a fine showing there.