The next big hope after Sania Mirza?

The 16-year-old’s singles title triumph in the WTA Future Stars in Singapore recently is perhaps a reminder of her growing reputation in the circuit.

India's Yadlapalli Pranjala with her trophy after defeating Hye Ran Yun of Korea in the Future Stars Final in Singapore.   -  Getty Images

She hails from the same city as Sania Mirza, India’s best ever women’s tennis player. And not surprisingly, Yadlapalli Pranjala, who grew up watching the five-time Grand Slam winner, is slowly but surely trying her best to live up to the expectations of fans who regard her as the next best hope from Hyderabad, capable of making it big in the tennis world.

Her singles title triumph in the WTA Future Stars in Singapore recently was perhaps a reminder of the 16-year-old player’s growing reputation in the circuit.

Importantly, as part of her preparations to perform more consistently, Pranjala has left for the famed Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida (USA) for a two-month training programme.

“Yes, it should help me a lot in my efforts to be a much better player,” said Pranjala, who is sponsored by the GVK Foundation.

“Watching some of the big names like Nishikori, Sharapova, Serena, Haas, Venus, etc. training there should in itself be a huge boost for me,” she added.

Improving her ITF World junior ranking, from 1200 to 17, during her three-year stint at the GVK Tennis Academy, under the tutelage of former national player Ilyas Ghouse, was one of her big achievements. Currently ranked No. 22 in the juniors, Pranjala, interestingly, has come back to her first coach Sanjay at the Sun-Jay Tennis Academy at the ASCI Courts in Hyderabad, where she first learnt the basics of the game.

Pranjala, a Standard XII student of Chinmaya Vidyalaya, is aiming for something big in the next few months. “Yes, my ultimate goal is play in the women’s singles at a Grand Slam event. However, I would like to take things as they come. Personally, I would try my best, and not be found wanting in putting the desired efforts,” she said.

“For instance, I did not imagine winning the singles title at the WTA Future Stars. I just went out there and gave my best. And, yes, there is always scope for improvement,” she added.

According to Pranjala, playing on the centre court in the Future Stars final in Singapore was one of the unforgettable experiences for her. “Receiving the trophy from two-time Grand Slam winner Li Na after winning the title was even more special,” she said. “Getting to play on the centre court in the final, meeting Li Na and all those other great players, it was wonderful.”

Interestingly, Pranjala is also the owner of the racquet presented by Sania Mirza. (The organisers ensured that all the WTA finalists presented their racquets to the finalists of the Future Stars in Singapore).

Pranjala’s next big goal is to do well in the junior Australian Open.

For the record, Pranjala is one of the only two Indians (the other being Sumit Nagpal) ranked under 30 in the ITF World junior rankings.

According to coach Sanjay, while training Pranjala, there was a conscious effort to get more power into her serve to make her a different and difficult player to handle.

Pranjala said that she was looking to carve a niche for herself in the next one year or so.