Vannemreddy: 'The journey has just begun'

The 16-year-old was relaxed about the prospect of competing in the junior French Open. “I have no targets result-wise because that would be limiting myself. But I want to keep working hard, stay disciplined and keep moving forward," he said.

Abhimanyu Vennamreddy has made the most of the opportunity.   -  Special Arrangement

Abhimanyu Vannemreddy competed in the final phase of the Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros tournament this past weekend in Paris only because Siddhant Banthia, who won the India leg, pulled out at the last minute with injury. It was a sliding-doors moment for Vannemreddy who flew in the day before the event, shrugged off jet-lag, and calmly won the whole thing, earning himself a wildcard entry to the junior French Open.

Banthia had beaten Vannemreddy 6-0, 6-1 in the final of the India leg in Delhi but if that result had dented his confidence in any way, there was no sign of it at Roland Garros.

“I was really happy to get the chance,” he said on Sunday. “Obviously I feel sorry for Banthia and it's not easy to let go of such an opportunity. But these things happen in tennis and you just have to be OK with it. So I flew in, got down to practise, and it all worked out for the best.”

Vannemreddy was playing on European clay – different to surfaces he would have encountered in India – for the first time. “It was nice. It's definitely different. You can feel the difference in the quality of the clay. I was playing on it for the first time, but I got used to it pretty quickly.”

The 16-year-old was relaxed about the prospect of competing in the junior French Open. “I have no targets result-wise because that would be limiting myself. But I want to keep working hard, stay disciplined and keep moving forward. The journey has just begun and a there's a long road ahead,” he said.

This lack of anxiety or nervousness ahead of a first major career tournament is perhaps down to Vannemreddy's upbringing in Tanzania where things, he felt, were always “chilled out”. His father ran a business there, and the youngster took his first steps in tennis at the plush Arusha Gymkhana Club. “I was there from the time I was two till I was about nine. It was more fun and chilled out there. In India people take it a little too seriously. I was making friends and having a good time in Tanzania. Things got a little more serious when I came to Bengaluru. But whatever happens you have to enjoy the game. If you don't there's no point playing it.”

Vannemreddy moved to India in early 2009, for the Mission 2018 tennis programme in Bengaluru. He spent three years in the city before moving out. For the last two years, Vannemreddy has been training with VishalUppal in Delhi, before ending the association this month. “I trained in Delhi with Vishal Uppal, Saurabh Singh and Abhimanyu Singh. I've been working with them for the last two years and they've been amazing. It's unfortunate I had to leave the program in Delhi a day before I came here because we had certain different plans but I'd love to work with them again.”

Adil Kalyanpur, who won the India leg of the Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros last year, is now training at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca. Vannemreddy is not opposed to the idea of training overseas but hopes to remain at home for some more time. “It would be great to work with a great academy like Nadal's but at the same time I believe our Indian coaches are no less. A lot of people underestimate them and go for foreign coaches but Indians can create Indian champions. It's always an option to train outside but being at home gives you that better feeling of support.”

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