Riya Bhatia looking forward to tennis after fruitful break

The two-time national women’s tennis champion is eager to use her new techniques of yoga and meditation when the tennis season resumes after lockdown.

Riya Bhatia will receive funds from the WTA for being among the world's to 350 players. - KAMESH SRINIVASAN

Two-time national women’s tennis champion Riya Bhatia is looking forward to using her new techniques of yoga and meditation when the tennis season resumes after lockdown.

In a lively conversation with coach M. Balachandran on Instagram, the 22-year-old Riya who had shot into fame by winning back to back national titles on hard and grass courts, said she was getting better with purposeful training under the guidance of coach Stephen Koon in Thailand. “The situation is beyond one’s control. I have been able to improve my fitness. I have been painting, cooking and spending time with family. I have also done the Art of Living course. I was happy doing 108 suryanamaskar on the yoga day. It felt like I have accomplished something,” said Riya, quite at ease in the present and tuning her personality with new skills.

“I have learnt a lot of new techniques. I have seen the changes in me after the meditation. I’m now looking forward to the matches,” said Riya.

Riya was happy to hear from the WTA that her status of being in the top 350 of the ranking list would fetch her some funds, in two instalments, by the end of July.

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Looking back at her initiation in tennis, Riya recalled that she used to play table tennis with her parents and developed interest in tennis as the courts were near home. “Have fun, but give your best. That was what my dad told me,” said Riya, who had a long stint of coaching from Pundreek Chaturvedi, apart from stints in Germany, to get better.

‘Big fan of Rohan’

Thanks to being employed with Indian Oil, Riya has been able to extend her friendship with table tennis star Manika Batra, a senior to her in school and college.

Apart from giving her stable employment, Indian Oil has also helped Riya with her game, what with the former World No. 3 doubles star Rohan Bopanna suggesting a tweak for better serve. “I am a big fan of Rohan. I saw him serve and volley, with such ease. I am looking forward to working with him,” said Riya, who is a big fan of Bopanna’s coffee as well.

She was also thrilled that Bopanna helped her watch Novak Djokovic play the final in Dubai, when she was there for the FedCup. “It was very nice watching the World No. 1 play the final. I had not seen him play,” said Riya about watching Djokovic in person.

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She was equally happy to be part of the FedCup team with former World No. 1 doubles star and six-time Grand Slam champion Sania Mirza. “Saw Sania playing matches, and how she controlled the nerves. Practised with her. She used to give me some tips. Felt proud to be part of the team with her. Talked to her dad who enquired about me,” said Riya.

Grateful to her mother for travelling with her for tournaments till she was on her own to cut cost, Riya said she reads a variety of books, including the Bhagwad Gita. “I give my mom the credit for keeping me calm. She used to say, you are giving your best. Results will show up. Don’t look for results,” said Riya.

Alliance with Stephen Koon

“It hurts me more when I play bad and win,” remarked Riya, giving credit to coach Stephen Koon for helping her achieve clarity about improving, by competing at the higher level.

Stephen Koon (centre) with Riya Bhatia (left) and former Asian junior champion Y. Pranjala. - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

“This is how much you need to work to reach your goals, tells Stephen. It is nice,” she said.

With a rose tattoo on her left arm, which gets into focus when she tosses the ball for serve, Riya said she would get a Gita-related tattoo next. She did miss competing in the junior Grand Slams, but said she was happy with the decision to plunge into the women’s circuit, owing to early success. “You can’t have everything,” she said.

Riya confessed that she loved playing on clay, and had made four finals, back to back, in Europe. She said that she tried to pick up the good qualities from various top players, and that Ashleigh Barty was her favourite.

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With three titles each in singles and doubles in the women’s international circuit, Riya said she was getting better in her pursuit to compete at the higher level. When asked to guide young players, Riya said, “Give everything in a match. Work on your strengths. Can’t get everything perfect. So, get the best out of what you have.”

From an angry player who often got frustrated with her mistakes on court, Riya has mellowed into a good player with strong physical and mental attributes.

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