The Mirzas—Imran and Sania—believe 21-year-old M. Theertha Shashank has the talent to make it big in professional tennis and needs to play more and more tournaments now.
Shashank, who has been practising at Suresh Krishna Tennis Academy for the last few months, has also been visiting Sania Mirza Tennis Academy whenever Imran is in town. He is being mentored by Sania’s father, who was largely responsible for his daughter’s evolution into one of the greatest women’s tennis players ever.
“Yes, Imran Sir has been of great help and huge moral support. Essentially, he is working on improving the slice and backhand, among other court movements. Fortunately, both he and Sania didi believe that my serve is a very strong weapon and that if I put in the desired effort, I can make it big,” says Shashank in a chat with ‘ Sportstar’ before preparing for the ITF Future Series events in Thailand next month.
Shashank initially started playing tennis because his parents, Bhaskar Murthy and M. Sreelatha, were worried about his health. But having made rapid strides at the Indira Park tennis courts since then, he has now turned to full-time tennis.
“Yes, the more tournaments I compete in, the better for me, and it is never easy given the financial issues involved in it. It is a different kind of challenge for sure, both on court and off it,” says the young talent, who was also a former India junior Davis Cupper and one of the two from India selected for ‘Road to Wimbledon’.
Interestingly, the 6-foot, 2-inch Shashank is keen to compete both in singles and doubles.
“No doubt, it is a different and challenging proposition, especially to pick doubles partners at venues where you go to compete. But once you get a feel for how a particular player fits into your scheme of things, it becomes easier,” said the MBA student from KL University.
Well, when Sania, who has one of the best forehands in the women’s circuit, is impressed with Shashank’s serve, he certainly deserves a little more focus and guidance.
“I saw a special spark in Shashank and decided to work with him. He is a strong boy, and I’m trying to model his game based on his natural strengths while correcting some of his weaknesses. Of course, he has some technical flaws, and we’ve already started ironing those out. He is a quick learner and is willing to work hard. I am hopeful that with proper technical and financial support, he can succeed on the international circuit,” Sania said. “I was particularly impressed with Shashank’s serve and overall attitude. He has a big game but he needs to play plenty of matches if he is to succeed at the highest level. With proper guidance, I feel confident he can go places,” she added.
After Sania’s partner at Rio, Prarthana Thombare - the second Olympian to be nurtured under Imran Mirza’s eye - we could have a third Olympian emerging out of the SMTA stables in the form of Theertha Shashank in the none-too-distant future, Imran said.
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