Yamalapalli Sahaja took another big step towards realising her goal of breaking into the top-300 in world rankings by winning her second ITF title in Gurugram last week.

Sahaja, 21, won the USD 25,000 ECT ITF women’s singles title on Sunday.

Coached by Ceaser Morales at the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence (PDCSE) in Bengaluru for the last two months, Sahaja admitted the win was a huge achievement. “Honestly, I didn’t have any expectations when I entered the event as I was taking it round by round. Everything fell in place and I am glad to have won the title eventually and that victory didn’t sink till late evening that day,” a delighted Sahaja said.

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Like many of the young kids, Sahaja started dabbling in tennis at the age of 10 at Saroornagar Indoor Stadium here, with groundstaff Sattaiah helping her. But as the days progressed, she got hooked to the sport and joined the Sinnet Tennis Academy.

“Well, joining PDCSE is a huge step for I am now more aggressive, mentally more stronger and have picked up a few finer aspects in terms of strategy in winning big matches,” said Sahaja, a Food Science and Nutrition graduate.

I am working really hard for all-round improvement. The plans are in place and hope to keep playing as many tournaments as possible - Yamalapalli Sahaja

With father Bhavani Kumar and mother Supriya deciding to extend complete support to their only daughter, Sahaja has the freedom and privilege to focus more on tennis. “Yes, I am working really hard for all-round improvement. The plans are in place and hope to keep playing as many tournaments as possible,” she said.

A big fan of Serena Williams, Sahaja is also hoping to get an official sponsor to enable her compete in more ITF tournaments even as she is grateful to Prahlad Jain for chipping in some financial help. “Even the PDCSE also helps me in taking part in some events,” she said.

Like all youngsters, Sahaja follows the success story of India’s best-ever women’s tennis player Sania Mirza and also gets inspired after meeting such greats like Rahul Dravid and the badminton legend Prakash Padukone. “One of my most priceless possessions is a picture with Prakash sir. Well, the whole atmosphere in the Centre is so motivating that you tend to put in that extra effort and more importantly keep enjoying the training sessions,” she signed off, setting herself the goal of winning a Grand Slam one day.