Starting The Year on a Positive Note

Not losing focus… Sanam Singh wants to concentrate on singles although he is doing well in doubles.-R. RAGU

“Modern tennis is all about speed, fitness and attitude. Staying fit during the off-season and preparing for the season ahead is paramount,” says Sanam Singh. By J.R. Shridharan.

His air-conditioned room had too many things strewn all over the place. Racquets, uppers, T-shirts and wristbands lay scattered on the sofa, chairs and bed, highlighting the nomadic life of Sanam Singh. The today-here-tomorrow-there life can be exacting for a professional tennis player when he travels around the world all alone with just his electronic gadgets and some stray memories for company.

Sanam realises the need for having a coach-cum trainer while travelling. “Soon I will be taking a call (on this), as I need a coach-cum-trainer not only to improve my performance but also to help keep me fit. I know I need to have deep pockets. I have no other option.

“As of now, I’m constantly in touch with my friends and coaches to assess my performances and help correct my mistakes while on the move,” says the 26-year-old player from Chandigarh, who had lost to a much younger Enrique Lopez-Perez of Spain the ITF Futures final in Chennai on March 16.

It was Sanam’s second consecutive defeat, having lost to Saketh Myneni in the final of the $10,000 ITF Futures-2 championship in Bhimavaram on March 9.

For Sanam, ranked No. 368 in the World and who has seven ITF titles, 2013 was a forgettable year, as he could not win any tournament owing to a wrist injury and chicken pox. He was in hibernation for four months. Sanam, however, began 2014 on a positive note, winning two back-to-back Challenger doubles titles (in Kolkata and Delhi) teaming up with Saketh Myneni. His non-inclusion in India’s main squad (he is in the reserves though) for the Davis Cup tie against South Korea in Busan has not deterred him from dreaming big. Sanam is determined to do well in future endeavours to draw the attention of the selectors.

“I have had a tepid outing in the Challenger singles this year, bowing out in the quarterfinals in three fixtures,” says Sanam, who won a gold medal in doubles (partner Somdev Devvarman) and a bronze in the team event at the 2010 Asian Games (Guangzhou).

According to Sanam, his experience with the Indian team during the Davis Cup fixtures against Uzbekistan, New Zealand and Indonesia was memorable as it helped him fine tune both his skills and attitude thanks to the interaction with the seniors. “It is always thrilling to play for the country. Senior players such as Leander (Paes) and Somdev Devvarman were always willing to guide the newcomers,” he says.

Sanam says he wants to focus on singles although he is doing well in doubles. In fact, Paes’ comment that Sanam has the qualities to become a good doubles player has worked wonders, as he teamed up with Myneni to emerge as a force to reckon with in the ITF and ATP Challenger circuits. “I really enjoy playing with and against Saketh and we know each other well. In fact, we have been training (together) rather than competing (against each other),” he says.

“There is something special about Indians while playing doubles in higher grade tournaments like the Slams. In fact, the tennis world is fascinated by the Indians’ victories in Slam doubles and mixed doubles. We have players like Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna, Somdev and Sania Mirza who have made name and fame for themselves in international doubles. The present crop of players is keen on emulating them,” he adds.

Recurring injuries have made Sanam realise the importance of staying fit for a longer duration. “Modern tennis is all about speed, fitness and attitude. Staying fit during the off-season and preparing for the season ahead is paramount. I visit the gym thrice a week and spend a good amount of time on the track. Cardio exercises are a must and so is diet,” he says.

He is not one to stretch himself beyond the limit. “Just a little bit of stretching and basic fitness regimes is all I need before a match,” Sanam says.

Sanam realises that his short stature is a deterrent while playing in the professional circuit, but he makes up for the shortcoming with his swift movement on the court. “I am a fleet-footed athlete and I have the ability to reach the ball early during an excruciating baseline tussle. I also make sure I get my angles right to unleash my double-fisted backhands. However, my weakness is the second serve,” he says.

Though an avid user of Twitter, he welcomes the move by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) banning tweeting on court during ITF matches. “It is a good step by the Federation, for it has been going on for a while. Some players use Twitter to pass on vital information on their own matches, about other players and their matches,” says Sanam, a music buff who enjoys both Hindi and English tunes.