Vihaan Reddy is sensational! The 13-year-old boy, frail like a genial chess player, took everyone’s breath away by winning five tennis titles in four weeks of ITF under-18 tournaments across the country, in Gurugram, Dehradun, Bhilai and Madurai.
In singles, he was undefeated in 21 straight matches, winning four titles, and he made it doubly memorable for himself at the finish, by winning the doubles title as well with Samarth Sahita, in the fourth tournament in Madurai.
“It feels great. I didn’t expect to do this well. I just wanted to play my best. I did play my best level. I am really happy with what I have achieved”, said Vihaan, after relishing his four weeks of toil on Indian soil.
Vihaan is a resident of Bay Area in California with his father Basannagouda Reddy working as a Senior Manager in a multi national company. He was just trying to get a few points from the ITF tournaments so that he could get entry into tournaments.
“Playing the qualifying event also would be too expensive in the US. My wife had not travelled for nearly three years. So, we opted to make Vihaan play in India. Roopa accompanied him as I was busy with work”, said Basannagouda.
He may have made tennis look easy with his calm demeanour and calculated game, thriving on equanimity in crunch situations, turning matches around when it looked a lost cause, but Vihaan conceded that it took a lot out of him.
“It was not easy at all. It was super complex. Last week, I was really tired. First couple of weeks, I was patient. Last week in Madurai, I realised that with patient tennis, I would not survive. So I played an aggressive game, moving the opponent from corner to corner and coming to the net. Had I been angry or shouted in tough situations, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this”, reasoned Vihaan.
“Patience is my big weapon”, he said.
Not allowing negative thoughts to eat into his energy is perhaps the key to his success. At 4-6, 1-4 he stays calm to turn the match on its head.
“There are some thoughts at times, but not often. I have been able to overcome those thoughts”, he revealed.
Two opponents pushed him to be at his very best. Aarjun Pandit in the quarterfinals of the fourth tournament, and Kandhavel Mahalingam in the final of the third tournament.
“Against Kandhavel, I was down most of the time. I’m proud of that win. Against Aarjun, I was patient and calm, even though I was extremely tired”, he said.
Vihaan’s father explained that he did not want the boy to compete in the hot and humid conditions of Madurai. But Vihaan wanted to play as he had agreed to continue playing the ITF circuit in India, after two tournaments, instead of going back to the US for the Easter Bowl under-14 event in Indian Wells, as originally planned.
“One tournament was no compensation for missing Indian Wells. So I wanted to play the last in Madurai also. I had committed to play doubles with Samarth two weeks earlier, and did not want to disappoint him”, said Vihaan.
During the course of the four weeks, Vihaan realised the need to be constantly hydrated during matches, “with electrolytes and coconut water”. He also realised that he was capable of adapting and playing according to the demands of the situation.
Vihaan was happy that his dad persuaded him to continue playing in India, as it was raining back home and that he would not have had good preparation for Indian Wells. “Now that I have got some points, I look forward to playing in higher level ITF tournaments”, said Vihaan who has already made his mark in the US in the under-12 and 14 events at the national level.
Vihaan hit a lot of balls before matches to be well prepared. He was happy to eat idli, dosa, chapathi, which is what he eats back home in the US, as well. “I know that I have to get physically strong, by tuning my diet. It is very difficult to perform without a strong physique. Now the focus will be towards all-round improvement”, said Vihaan.
A very good student, Vihaan kept himself happy right through the Indian events, by reading a lot of fiction and playing chess online. “I read 8 or 9 books in the last four weeks. I have started playing chess online in the last four months. I also did some home work”, he said.
Vihaan’s mother Roopa was pleased with the accomplishment of the boy. “We are really happy. Vihaan was very focused and calm. Even when he was tired, and his father asked him to concede, at least the doubles, he was interested to play”, said Roopa.
“It was amazing the way he played. It was beyond our expectation. By studying the WTN and UTR, we knew that he would do well. All credit goes to him and his mom. Now that he is 13, we will help him get good training. For the next couple of years, the focus will be to get him ready for the physicality of tennis”, Vihaan’s father said.
Vihaan moved with his family to the US when he was four years old. His father learnt tennis for six months and initiated him into the game when he was five.
“After one year, I realised that Vihaan had lot of potential to be a great player. So next five-six years I worked seriously with him. When he was 11, he went beyond my teaching ability. So, I took him to various coaches and academies. Now he plays at Eagle Fustar Academy in Sunnyvale, three days a week”, said Basannagouda.
It has been a fabulous journey for Vihaan, so far, when he finds himself, as a bright student of the game, on the starting block for possibly an exciting tennis career.
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