The tennis world may be looking forward to the miraculous repeat of the clash of titans, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, at the Australian Open on Sunday.
What many may not know is that there is an Indian junior in the safe custody of Rafael Nadal at his academy in Spain for the last few months, showing promise to improve the standard of Indian tennis and take it to a different level.
Adil Kalyanpur, at 6 feet 3 inches and weighing 75 kilograms, is easily the best junior on view in the country. He has just won his first ATP point in Spain, and will be training with the Indian Davis Cup team in Pune, for the tie against New Zealand.
Adil, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Republic Day, made his first mark three years ago by winning the doubles title of the UK under-14 championship with Siddhant Banthia, on the hallowed grass courts of Wimbledon. He has gained a lot of tennis knowledge and experience in a short time.
‘’It has been an amazing experience. I have learnt and improved a lot. I hit with Rafa quite often when he is in town and that has helped me understand the kind of tennis that I am working towards. Watching him on TV and practising with him are two very different things’’, said Adil, when contacted at his home.
It is not just Rafael Nadal, but another former world No.1 Carlos Moya and Rafa’s uncle Toni Nadal who have been working on Adil’s game along with the other coaches.
‘’I am very happy with the reactions from them and it is motivating. Everything they say has made a lot of sense and I have utmost trust and respect. They are experts and are guiding me in the right direction. I am honoured to work with such amazing and talented people’’, said Adil, whose parents are renowned doctors, Sunita Maheshwari and Arjun Kalyanpur, based in Bengaluru.
The training is obviously demanding, and Adil takes one’s breathe away by saying that he enjoys the experience.
‘’I have always enjoyed challenges in training as well as matches. The training has been highly demanding but I have adapted well and become much stronger and fitter. The academy has a very unique coaching method which has really suited me’’, he said.
Understandably delighted to get a chance to train with the Davis Cup team, Adil said that it was an ‘’absolute honour’’.
‘’My long term goal is to play for India. So, this is a huge stepping stone. I will try to learn as much as I can’’, he said.
Adil had helped the Indian junior Davis Cup team qualify for the World Group last year and had a fine experience, competing on clay in Europe.
With such highly qualified parents, Adil appreciates the essence of education, but has given tennis top priority with their support.
‘’Education is very important. I have been taught that from a young age. My parents are not worried about how I get my education, as long as I am learning and growing as a human being’’, he said.
The experience of competition in Europe, when he was advised to skip the Australian Open juniors, has already given a taste of what to expect.
‘’Playing Futures in Spain was a great introduction into the men’s circuit. I got my first ATP singles point and that was a huge start to the year and a massive confidence boost. The competition levels in Europe are very high and you have to work so hard for each point, especially on clay’’, he said.
Roger Federer may have more fans in India, but there is an Indian junior for whom Rafael Nadal is very close to heart.
If anything, the future of Indian tennis is in the best hands.
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