Wimbledon: A dream run for 17-year-old Samir Banerjee, parents pleasantly surprised

Samir, an Indian-American tennis player from New Jersey, will be playing the Wimbledon boys' final on Sunday. While Samir is enjoying his moment, it has been a pleasant surprise for his parents.

With 10 final appearances in 16 events so far, Samir’s ITF junior circuit record has been phenomenal over the past year. - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The French Open held last month was a learning experience for Samir Banerjee. The 17-year-old Indian-American tennis player from New Jersey had crashed out of the tournament in the first round.

It was disappointing, but the youngster took things in his stride and headed to London for the Wimbledon. While he was not expecting too much, Samir just wanted to win “at least” one game at the All England Club. But over the last couple of weeks, life has been incredibly good for him.

The young gun dropped just three sets in his last five matches and stormed into the final of the boys’ singles. He will take on Victor Lilov in the summit clash on Sunday. This will be the first all-American boys’ final at Wimbledon since 2014.

While Samir is enjoying his moment, it has been a pleasant surprise for his parents, who live in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

“It’s a big surprise for us. After he lost in the first round of the French Open, his goal was to just win one match at Wimbledon. But I guess, he got used to the grass as he likes playing on grass surfaces. It is a pleasant surprise, we are thrilled,” Samir’s father, Kunal Banerjee, told Sportstar on Saturday - hours after Samir’s semifinal victory against Sascha Gueymard Wayenburg.

“He had gone in with pretty low expectations after the French Open defeat. But he worked hard and we are very happy.”

Banerjee had accompanied Samir to the French Open in Paris, but could not travel to the U.K. for the Wimbledon due to professional commitments. “My brother Kanad is with him at Wimbledon. We are very happy that he has reached the final, but it is very tough, so let’s see how it goes,” Banerjee said.

How it started

Banerjee and his wife Usha - who was born in Vizag and grew up in Hyderabad -emigrated to the U.S. almost three and a half decades ago. They met there, got married, and now have two children - Samir and his elder sister Divya.

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A Bengali from Assam, Banerjee’s father worked in the petroleum industry and was posted in Digboi in the Tinsukia district. “My brother and I were into sports, even though we did not pursue it at a higher level. In upper Assam, we had a culture of playing tennis and golf, so we had a sporting environment at home. That’s how Samir developed an interest. He has been playing since he was six,” Banerjee said.

In the early days, Samir was interested in multiple sports, but slowly, he fell in love with tennis. “He does not have a permanent training academy. He trains at a number of places,” Banerjee, who is a finance professional, said.

Samir Banerjee's parents want him to focus on his academics alongside his tennis. - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

More recently, he trained with the Indian tennis players Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Sriram Balaji. “He has been training in Florida, New Jersey, and even trained at the Alexander Waske Tennis University in Germany. He will go to college next year and for him, the goal right now is to play college tennis and then let’s see how things go from there.”

Focus on academics

Even though Samir is in the middle of a dream run at Wimbledon, his parents want him to focus on academics. “We want him to do well in academics and then, if he plays really well, we will make a decision later on. But right now, based on his performance at the junior level, it is very difficult to say that he will be very successful at the senior circuit. That’s very tough, so we don’t want to take that decision now,” Banerjee said.

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“College tennis is very strong in the U.S. That’s what he will try and do at the moment and will get his degree. If he starts playing in the men’s tour events and shows progress, then we will definitely support him. It is really difficult to be a professional tennis player - especially in terms of financial rewards - unless of course you are playing the Wimbledon. We don’t want him to go on that track without any college degree to back him up.”

A clash of friends

Over the last few years, Samir has travelled to various parts of the world and even featured in an ITF Juniors event in New Delhi a few years ago. “It was one of his earlier ITFs and we were hoping to travel to India last year to play in Delhi and Kolkata, but we could not make it due to COVID-19,” Banerjee said.

A Novak Djokovic fan, Samir has a big task on Sunday, but he is not taking unnecessary pressure. “He is taking one game at a time. He is coming up against a very tough opponent (Lilov), who is also from the U.S. and he knows him very well. So, it will be a match between two friends. The other boy has been playing well, so Samir will go out there and see how things shape up. He has been approaching it match by match,” Banerjee said.

“In the final, he might be a bit overawed by the atmosphere, but that atmosphere was there in the semifinal, too. He played in Court 1 with a lot of people watching him. So, he has got used to the crowd and it will be a close contest and the person who performs better on that day will win.”

With 10 final appearances in 16 events so far, Samir’s ITF junior circuit record has been phenomenal over the past year.

And as he gears up for the big final at the Wimbledon, sitting far away in New Jersey, his friends and family will not only cheer for Samir, but will also want him to bring the title home. 

After all, some dreams do come true.

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