2018 — a breakout year for Sasi Kumar Mukund

The 21-year-old said it was a conscious decision to play more Challengers.

Sasi Kumar Mukund: “It was a tough period when you don’t qualify and I will be lying if I say I didn’t think of going down a step back to Futures. But thankfully, towards the end of the year, I got some good results.”   -  Special Arrangement

Sasi Kumar Mukund could not have asked for a better start to the new year. He was handed his maiden Davis Cup World Group qualification call-up on Monday as a reserve for the tie against Italy next month.

The 21-year-old had one of his best years on the tour in 2018 moving from 426 to finish the year at 295 on the ATP rankings.

He turned a page in his career in 2018, regularly competing in Challengers with a handful of quarterfinal appearances, being the highlights.

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A tough period

Speaking to Sportstar, Mukund said, “There were lots of ups and downs this year but I am humbled and it is a dream come true to be part of the Davis Cup.”

In 2018, Mukund, who featured regularly on the Futures tour, made a conscious decision to go a step higher and play the Challengers more regularly.

At the start of the year, the youngster from Chennai made the quarterfinals in two Challenger events that gave him the confidence to scale new heights.

However, with the new rules kicking in, the field was getting stronger with more players fighting for crucial ATP points, which also meant some tough losses in qualifying rounds. At one point in the year, he lost in 12 out of the 13 events in qualifying.

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“It was a tough period when you don’t qualify and I will be lying if I say I didn’t think of going down a step back to Futures. But thankfully, towards the end of the year, I got some good results.”

Significance of a coach

Mukund trains in Vienna, Austria, with a small group of tennis players under coach Martin Spoettl, who also travelled with him for the most part of last year, which has helped a lot.

“When you are between the age of 20-25, a coach is an important person to have around you. It is not just when you are losing but even when you are winning and like now when you get called up for Davis Cup, a person who can help you keep the focus on the game is very important.”

While he did not qualify for the Maharashtra Open, the lone ATP world tour event in the country, after losing in the qualifiers, Mukund will now play a Challenger in Vietnam before joining the team in Kolkata.

The 21-year-old is hoping to make the most of the experience.