Poonacha, Bavisetti wins highlight importance of physios

Both National Championships winners contemplated withdrawing from the tournament owing to physical distress. Physio Anand Dubey then stepped in to help.

From nearly withdrawing from the National Championships to ultimately winning the tournament, Niki Poonacha and Sowjanya Bavisetti have their physio Anand Dubey to thank for a successful campaign.   -  Kamesh Srinivasan

Tennis is as demanding a sport as it is rewarding. Hence it is imperative for professional tennis players to travel with at least a trainer, if they cannot afford a coach. The value of a trainer was emphasised once again during the Fenesta National Tennis Championship, as physio Anand Dubey worked magic with champions Niki Poonacha and Sowjanya Bavisetti.

At one point, Poonacha was contemplating withdrawing from the tournament owing to a lower back strain, while Sowjanya found herself struggling with a sprained neck which she thought might hinder her participation in the tournament.

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"I had known Sowjanya from the time of the Fed Cup held in Hyderabad in 2015. So, she called me and we started the therapy for her. Niki had not known me. Coach M. Balu had given my number to him on Friday, three days before the tournament, as he was unable to even stand,owing to the back strain’’, said Anand, who worked with both players every day through the week.

Both kept getting better with each passing day to the extent that Sowjanya won both the singles and doubles titles. Niki went on to win his singles titles with much gusto, but his chances of making that a double ended when his partner SD Prajwal Dev had to rush home owing to a bereavement in the family.

"If you keep doing the right things with a positive mind, anything is possible. I remember, Isha Lakhani also went through a similar situation before she won one of her many titles in 2007’’, said Anand. The physio used needling, massage and manipulation to relieve the players, and taped them every morning to provide support during play.

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The 43-year-old has rich experience of having travelled as the trainer for Sania Mirza, and recalls her fierce forehand during the Australian Open which shook former World No.1 Justine Henin. He also travelled with Divij Sharan to the French Open and Wimbledon, which included an eight-week stint recently.

Having been a basketball player, who joined the Railways, Anand has also worked a lot with players like Shahid Qureshi, Ajmer Singh and Ramkumar. He has also helped Indian hoopster Pratima Singh avoid knee surgery with proper therapy. Anand has been to the last three Asian Games with the Indian tennis teams, and had been working with the Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams as well.

Getting time off work to be around the players is hard especially when you work in the Railways. Anand, however, is happy to lend a hand whenever time and circumstance permit.

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"I am happy to pursue my passion to help players. If it becomes a profession, I may not be this good’’,he reasons, likening this to how medical conglomerates have made healthcare a roaring business.

New methods, new means of therapy, exercises and good practice are all things Anand is constantly working to acquire. His visit to Florida to do a certification course with Pat Etcheberry, a renowned strength and conditioning coach who has worked with the likes of Sampras, Agassi, Hingis and Henin. Olympic medalist and multiple Grand Slam winner Leander Paes has also sought Etcheberry's services to give him the longevity to last seven Olympics and maintain a professional career on the side.

"Coaches need to be careful with young players. There are a lot of injuries these days, due to over training. We need to strengthen the body and follow a proper routine every day’’, observed Anand.