Mental strength and parents key to Sania's success: Nandini Perumal

Former tennis player Nandini Perumal remembered praised Sania Mirza's approach to tennis whom she first saw training with coach Ganesh Raman.

Nandini Perumal currently resides in New York with her husband Varun Athi, a state-level volleyball player.   -  special arrangement

The social media has shrunk the world, especially during lockdown. At her home in New Jersey, former tennis player, Nandini Perumal is happily keeping an eye on the progress of Indian tennis, and the wealth of information floating on the internet about the coaching methods and improving standards.

The 36-year-old Nandini, who had trained with coach Ganesh Raman, when he had the most famous trainee Sania Mirza, recalled his visionary coaching methods.

"Sania is an indigenous product, and we should be proud of her. Her mom played a huge part in her success. Her parents took her to a lot  of tournaments and she was mentally very strong. She enjoyed her tennis a lot. I had the luxury of seeing her from close quarters when she was really young and later when she reached the top 30s in world rank," recalled Nandini.

"I started in tennis late, when I was 13. I had won gold medals in 100 and 200 metres in junior nationals in athletics. Thanks to my athletic background and with Ganesh sir’s encouragement, I was No.11 among the women in Indian tennis within five years," remembered Nandini.

Big time into teaching yoga, apart from being strength and conditioning expert, as well as "bright minds trainer," Nandini is happily married to Varun Athi, a post graduate from Harvard University and a State-level volleyball player.

"Sania was already playing with Ganesh sir when I started. He has this knack of creating a tailor made practice session for players which propelled them to the next level. Most of the improvement happened without even the players realising it," Nandini said.

"His coaching was truly ahead of his times. Back then, when there was not much resources and exposure for coaches to improve, he was updated, and connected the importance of yoga and breathing way back in 1996. He also taught us visualisation, meditation and nutrition, which is the norm today. He got the best out of the players with creative and competitive methods," she said.

READ: What are the right criteria to pick the tennis GOAT?

Nandini benefited from visualising herself serving flat and hitting the backhand down the line against Liza Pereira in a tough third set, during the National championship.

"Today, when I look back, the only thing I would have done differently was, stick on a bit longer with the game and played more tournaments. Players like Shahar Peer, Bondarenko sisters, Shuai Peng and Victoria Azarenka made it to the top-50, a few years after we had played the same tournaments. Physically and technically, we were on par, but lacked the exposure and and the mental toughness," she said.

For success in tennis, or in any sphere, Nandini presents the formula of coach Ganesh Raman.

"All the four pillars should be equally strong to make it big the player, the parents, affordability and the coach," she reiterated.

Both her sons, Vidyuth and Agastya are exposed to a variety of activities like swimming, biking soccer, cricket, basketball, with the freedom to pursue the career of their choice.

"The lockdown has helped us to sit back and reflect on ourselves without much distraction. The kids play soccer and cricket in the backyard and we go biking every evening," Nandini said.

A firm believer of karma, Nandini is categorical when she says, "This is Kaliyuga. We have created this and we shall fight it with the power of the universe, just like mankind has done for so many years, and evolved."

Support Sportstar


Dear Reader,

Support our journalism — where text and pictures intermingle so seamlessly — and help us scale up your experience as the world changes around us. Your contribution is vital to our brand of uninfluenced, boots-on-the-ground reportage that’s worth your while. Clickbait sensationalism is not for us, but editorial independence is — we owe it to you.

  Dugout videos