A rewarding healing programme for Pranjala Yadlapalli

Pranjala is happy to use the lockdown to recover her physical fitness and health in Australia.

At home: Pranjala Yadlapalli with Stacey Ness in Melbourne. - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Pranjala Yadlapalli is happy to use the lockdown to recover her physical fitness and health in Australia, getting full attention from the ATP Director of Medical Services, Paul Ness.

“We had a fast-track visa in two days. I reached Australia on February 23, with a three-month visa. My visa expired on May 13, and the process of extending it is on. It is better to be here and keep working,” said Pranjala, in a free-wheeling conversation on Instagram with the tennis fraternity.

Pranjala continued to play, without listening to her coach Stephen Koon of the Impact Tennis Academy in Thailand, even with the back ache, and eventually had to pay the price of a breakdown. Since she was getting good results despite not being at her physical best, the temptation was to continue playing, Pranjala confessed.

“Paul has 23 years of experience at the Australian Open, and working with all the top players. He put no restrictions on my movements. He has gradually increased the training. He works out with me every day, he beats me in the sprints. It is a lot of fun. He picks me up from my place and drops me back,” said Pranjala, quite grateful to Paul and his wife Stacey, who made it a memorable birthday for her in Melbourne.

Stacy, a myotherapist, also broke the monotony of rice and daal for Pranjala and made the meal menu interesting for her.

Once she felt good physically, Pranjala started hitting against the wall and later found a friend from Hyderabad, studying in Melbourne, Himakesh Sankineni, to practise on a private court. The 21-year-old Pranjala was whole-hearted in her appreciation of GoSports Foundation which took care of her expenses for the Australian visit and got her treated by one of the best physiotherapists in the world.

Guidance by Stephen Koon

Winning back-to-back singles titles in the USD 25,000 ITF women’s tournaments in Lagos, Nigeria, in 2018 has been the high point of her career so far, and Pranjala thanked coach Stephen Koon for improving her physically, technically and mentally.

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“I started thinking better on court. I begged him to let me play doubles as I liked it. But he said no. I am glad that I listened to him. It helped me play my singles matches well, with good recovery, over the two weeks,” recalled Pranjala, who rose to a career-best rank of 265.

Incidentally, she was ranked No. 15 among the juniors, and had won the Asian junior title, apart from reaching the doubles quarterfinals of junior Grand Slams in Melbourne and Paris. “Coach Stephen is strict and wants us to do well. Sometimes, he irritates us to get the best out of us. He believes in us. He wants us to be perfect and be best prepared. When he saw me, he told me that I should be ranked top-250 for the quality of game I played. I was 450 then. He works a lot on mental aspects,” said Pranjala.

In the USD 125,000 ITF WTA event soon after the two titles in Nigeria, Pranjala had qualified and led 6-3, 5-2 against Luksika Kumkum, the eventual champion, in the first round. “Stephen had told me that I had missed a great opportunity in that match. Even though I lost, that match boosted my confidence,” Pranjala said.

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With such competent people like Paul Ness and Stacey Ness taking care of her in Australia, and a visionary coach in Stephen Koon guiding her, Pranjala is confident of her best tennis ahead.

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