Pune Challenger: Aryan Goveas making friends and learning on tour

For Aryan Goveas, who is banking on tour friends for tennis advice in the absence of a travelling coach, every win is a step towards the next milestone on a lonely journey.

Aryan Goveas (right) with tour friend from Zimbabwe, Courtney Lock.   -  Special Arrangement

Aryan Goveas won much more than three ATP points and $520 prize money at last week’s KPIT MSLTA Challenger Tennis Series in Pune, suffering a second-round loss at the Balewadi sports complex hardcourts.

He gained confidence, belief in his strokes, and a positive outlook for the season coming up. For a teenager banking on tour friends for tennis advice in the absence of a travelling coach, every win is a step forward towards reaching the next milestone on a lonely journey.

The 21-year-old Mumbai teenager went down fighting to Sumit Nagal 6-4, 7-6 (5), subsequently earning praise from the India number two who had earlier this year faced Roger Federer at US Open 2019 first round and took a set off the Swiss icon.

Far away from the US at Balewadi, Aryan had earlier got noticed when blasting his way past higher-ranked Tobias Simon in an action-packed first-round tie between the 867-ranked Indian and 480-ranked German.

The Challenger show by the teenager against talented Nagal (ranked 131) and an imposing German with ferocious serves boosted his confidence to a level where he feels that 2020 can be a breakthrough year. “It (win over Simon) gave me a lot of belief in my game and confidence that I could step up to the Challenger level and crack that level as well in the near future," he said.

"I had my chances to take in-form Nagal to the third set. The match was a good learning experience for me. My aim for next season is to play higher tournaments, get my ranking within 450, build from there on.”

He had earlier finished as the singles runner-up at the Fenesta Senior Nationals in New Delhi. The feat earned him an entry into KPIT Challenger’s main draw as a wildcard entry, which is granted to lower-ranked but promising local talents by event organisers.

This was the third such wildcard handed out by MSLTA, the state tennis body organising the ATP event. After two unsuccessful tries, he made the breakthrough in 2019 with a first-round win and repaid the organisers’ faith.

Coached by Aditya Madkekar and Kaifi Afzal, the task ahead for Aryan  is to replicate the Balewadi display in events outside India wherever he can get into the main draw, based on rankings, like the Futures category tournaments.

Having a personal coach along is helpful on tour overseas when adapting to different playing surfaces, climatic conditions and time zones are critical. The reduction in international events in India leaves them with little option but to take the lonely road.

For example, the Pune Challenger was the only event of that level hosted in India for a whole 2019 season. Aryan cannot afford a travelling coach for matches outside India (minimum coach fees is $1000 per week), so he banks on a support group of fellow tennis pros travelling and training together.

Courtney Lock from Zimbabwe and Kaunuday Singh from India are close friends, doubling up as tennis advisors. “I have friends on the circuit, really good players who I stay and travel with when on tour. We watch each other’s matches, give each other inputs, train together and this arrangement is always helpful when I am on the tour. Another person’s perspective on what you are doing on and off court is effective.”

The Zimbabwean and the Mumbai teen struck up a friendship as juniors in 2014, three years later were travelling together to the same events. “Karunuday helps us stay positive,” said Aryan. The rapport with Madkekar, developed over a decade of working together, is effective. “My coaches understand the way I play, know how I am feeling. Communicating (with them) is tough when away on tour overseas but they know what is going on (with my game) and help as much as they can from here.”

Next month, he will be in action at the Tennis Premier League, representing Mumbai Leon Army, which is co-owned by Leander Paes.