Zeeshan Ali, Ashutosh Singh talk about transition from junior to senior level

Former Indian tennis players Zeeshan Ali and Ashutosh Singh recall their playing days and the transition from wooden racquets to graphite ones.

Zeeshan Ali

Zeeshan Ali recalled how a visit to Wimbledon inspired him to take up tennis as a career.   -  Sudhakara Jain

It was the taste of Wimbledon that made Zeeshan Ali make a life long commitment to tennis.

"I was the Don Bosco school cricket captain. I used to play table tennis and other games. My dad once took me to Wimbledon, just to watch and I decided that tennis was what I wanted to do," said Zeeshan Ali, the Davis Cup coach of the Indian team, during the webinar hosted by SAI and AITA.

It is well known that Zeeshan’s father, Akhtar Ali was the coach of the Davis Cup team which had Ramanathan Krishnan and he was also the travelling coach of Vijay Amritraj on the professional tour.

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Zeeshan won the men’s national title when he was 16, and went on to become world No.126. "I lost the National junior championship in Jaipur, as I was overconfident about being the No.2 junior in the world. It was a jolt. The following week, I won the men’s national title," recalled Zeeshan, who had in fact won the national men’s doubles title with Mark Ferreira when he was 14 years of age.

While Zeeshan learnt plenty of things from his father and uncles,
another national champion Ashutosh Singh, also from a family of tennis players, recalled how his father Balram Singh would hardly tell him anything.

"We learnt by watching his discipline. Getting up on time, preparing well etc.," said Ashutosh, who has also taken up coaching.

"My dad was always busy as he was also working with the Railways. I hardly got to meet him. He was sharp with his words. Once when I was getting late, readying myself for a marriage function and he made a cryptic remark, ‘aadmi banne mein time lagta hai’ (It takes time to become a man). It was so apt," recalled Ashutosh.

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Zeeshan spoke about the transition from a wooden racquet to graphite, and how it made a world of change to one’s game.

"We learnt the technique and basics very well. They were drilled into us. You need to have correct foot work, meet the ball right. So, wood or graphite, we connect the ball at the centre of the racquet," said Zeeshan.

He had to quit the game when he was 25 owing to a back injury, having already won seven national singles titles, including five on grass.

"No player picks up a racquet to be a doubles player or be a coach," said Zeeshan, quite happy to be connected with the game at home as a coach, after a long stint in Dubai.

Ashutosh also recalled his training stint on red clay in
Bulgaria for four weeks, where he did not win even a practice set. "When I came back, I was a different player. All my best results came after that stint," he said.

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"There is no substitute to hard work. You have to work smart also. There is no short cut to success. You need to have patience. Get a good coach, make a strong foundation and keep working on that. You need to have the passion. Fire has to be burning inside. That cannot be taught," summed up Zeeshan, giving tips to the juniors.

It was a bonanza to the coaches, listening to two champion coaches hailing from tennis families, blending the past with the present, in making a bright path for the future."

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