India made history last month when it won the Asia-Oceania Qualifiers for the first time to qualify for the Junior Davis Cup finals. Fifteen-year-old Rushil Khosla played a crucial role in the win, losing just one of his five singles matches in the tournament – to Australia’s Hayden Jones – as India, the seventh seed, pipped Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, and Japan en route to the title. In doubles, the pair of Khosla and Bushan Haobam won five matches and lost none.
Khosla, who trains under Aditya Sachdeva at the Roundglass Tennis Academy in Chandigarh, says he is inspired by Virat Kohli and wants to win the gold medal for India at the 2028 Olympic Games.
A short interaction:
Q. Talk us through the win (Junior Davis Cup Qualifiers). How were your own preparations leading up to it? And which were the toughest matches that you played?
A. The victory was phenomenal and a dream come true! I would say that it is the most memorable moment of my career so far. The Davis Cup is a highly prestigious tournament and even as a 10-year-old, I aspired to compete in it.
Playing for India is a great honour and a huge motivation. It brings out the best in my game. I came to know about my selection when I was training in Europe. From that moment, I began preparing for this tournament and told myself each day that I will play to win.
On returning to India, I immediately started one-week intensive training with Adi sir (RoundGlass Tennis Academy technical director Aditya Sachdeva), followed by a one-week AITA (All India Tennis Association) training camp, which helped all the players to get together as a team. On court, we were buzzing with energy and the support from the fans at the stadium was incredible. When you are playing for India, the emotions are always running high.
As we were placed in the same pool with top seeds Australia, all matches were tough. However, the most crucial fixture was the quarterfinal match against Iran, where we turned the tables spectacularly (India won 2-1).
Danir Kaldybekov from Kazakhstan was consistent in his play, and it was a tough match against him but thanks to my international exposure, I had the experience of playing against him and knew what it would take to win.
Japan was the toughest opposition as their playing style is very different and agility levels are high. I needed to be on my toes at all times. In my last three ITF tournaments, I have faced many Japanese opponents and that experience helped me. On the day of the final, my mind was clear.
Your thoughts on the performance of your team-mate Bushan Haobam, who won nine out of 12 matches played. How instrumental was he in the win?
Bushan has a very strong and aggressive game, and it is always good to have him play the first matches in our ties. He played really well and helped the team gain a lot of confidence.
Going into the tournament, did the team think there was a possibility of making history? And what were your thoughts on the day of the final against Japan?
Our captain Sajid sir (Sajid Lodi) and Zeeshan sir (Zeeshan Ali) really motivated us from day one. As a team, we approached each match one after the other. Although we lost to Australia, the way we played gave us a lot of encouragement and from there, we were confident that we can go on and win the tournament.
Our minds and hearts were clear that we have to be No. 1. To be honest, we did not know till the semifinals that winning would mean creating history!
You have been fairly successful in the ITF circuit. What are your personal goals in tennis in the next five years?
In the next five years, I want to play and win a Junior Grand Slam and start playing on the professional tour. My ultimate goal is to win Olympic gold for my country in 2028.
Who are your idols in tennis? And anyone who inspires you from any other sporting discipline or other professions?
I am inspired and motivated by all three greats – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic. All three are so different but united in their pursuit of excellence and being the best.
From other sports, Virat Kohli inspires me a lot as he is a complete professional and always gives more than 100 per cent effort every time he steps out on the field.