Radhika Tulpule Kanitkar happy to guide young players

A national champion at every level from U-14 to women, in singles and doubles, Radhika chose to make her contribution to the game as a coach. She is one of the best qualified women coaches in the country.

Radhika Tulpule Kanitkar with her daughter Anika at the Poona Club, after a long day of tennis training.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

Radhika Tulpule Kanitkar had won an ITF women’s doubles title with Sania Mirza in Manila in 2002. Even though she did not progress in tandem with Sania, Radhika -- who had also won ITF singles titles-- has made her identity in a different way.

A national champion at every level from U-14 to women, in singles and doubles, Radhika chose to make her contribution to the game as a coach. She is one of the best qualified women coaches in the country.

Yet, she is happy to tune the young players, giving them strong basics.

With her three-year-old daughter Anika accompanying her, Radhika spends many hours on the court in two different centres every day. She had won two singles titles earlier in the professional circuit, and understands the craft of playing the game a lot better than many do.

On her way to assist a bunch of players representing India in an U-14 event in France, Radhika said that she was open to the idea of coaching the national team at higher levels including the Fed Cup team at some stage in her career.

“We enjoyed playing the game more than anything. Now, even the 10-year-old kids don’t seem to enjoy the game. That is scary. They are mostly mechanical, and there is not much thought in their strokes. Players are not understanding the basics,’’ said Radhika, as she looked at the big picture.

She insists that good coaches are important when the kids start the game, so that strong fundamentals could become part of their routine.

Despite the game growing manifold in the last decade, Radhika strongly feels that the players need better environment abroad, if they want to crack the top-100 or top-50 in women’s tennis.

Sania did have an exceptional attitude and strong faith in her ability to thrive in the Indian system and reach No.17 in singles and No.1 in doubles in the world. But, not everyone is blessed with such a strong mind and super guidance from the family. “With better monitoring and better environment, not to forget super discipline and dedication, we can hope our girls to reach the next level,’’ Radhika said.

With the tennis boom and thousands playing the game, Radhika does feel that there is a lot of talent, that needs direction.

“Learn to enjoy the game and competition from a young age, to stay in the game for life. You play the game because you love it, not for others,’’ said Radhika, as she underlined the key philosophy for happiness and success in the game.

Radhika is quite thrilled that her young daughter has picked up both tennis and golf with equal felicity on her own, and loves to play. Even if a healthy system of sports in the country may take time to stabilise, the genes and an inherent sporting mind may do the trick for Anika.