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Inspired by Federer, Apeejay Faridabad student Suhani Gaur seeks to make waves in tennis

Recently crowned under-18 district champion, she says watching Roger Federer on TV inspired her to become a professional tennis player



At what age did you begin playing tennis?

I began playing tennis when I was seven. My dad introduced me to tennis. He himself played tennis and had participated in the nationals during his time. At first I wasn’t that serious, I was playing tennis for fitness, as a form of exercise. It wasn’t until the age of 11 that I started to play with the desire to be a professional.

Who are your favourite tennis players?

Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty are my favourite women tennis players. In men, I like Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem.  

Which international tennis tournaments do you follow closely?

I like the Wimbledon and Australian Open the most. Wimbledon is the greatest Grand Slam, the biggest tennis spectacle. I like the Australian Open because of the courts there, since I also play on a synthetic surface.

In what ways has Apeejay School, Faridabad, supported you in pursuing your passion?

The teachers do not pressure me much with academics. They know that I am travelling most of the time due to various tournaments and for practice. So they help me prepare for the exams by giving me notes. The teachers also take care of my attendance. The school has also given me a scholarship for my performance in sport.

How have your parents supported you in your journey as a tennis prodigy?

My mom and dad devote all their time to me.  My father, a businessman, is with me at tournaments and practice sessions.  He encourages me to practice and better myself continuously. He supports me at every step of my career as a tennis player.

Who is your inspiration behind choosing tennis?

When I started watching the Grand Slams and saw the performances of big players such as Roger Federer, it inspired me to be a professional player. I knew I wanted to follow this path.

Has Sania Mirza influenced you as an athlete?

Yes, of course. She was the first Indian player to play at a Grand Slam. That was a big inspiration not just for me but for every woman in India. Every female tennis player aspires to reach that stage as an athlete.  Even now, she is an inspiration to many.

What do you think of Naomi Osaka’s views on the media?

I think that she is aware and takes steps about what’s happening in the world. I believe that is great because she doesn’t just focus on tennis but also on other things in the world.  

Have you heard about the exploits of the Bhambri sisters?

More than just that, I have even played with Ankita Bhambri for a month. When I first met her I was really nervous but I was excited as well. I had met her during the lockdown. A coach who used to train Ankita Bhambri recommended her to coach me during the lockdown as all other academies were closed.  We trained at a college in Delhi. It was a two-hour drive from my place in Faridabad. My dad took me there every day. Ankita Bhambri still plays really well. She was very supportive and gave me many useful tips such as taking more time before my serve. She further told me to always keep the intention to reach to the ball.  I met Prerna Bhambri (the younger cousin of former players Ankita Bhambri and Sanaa Bhambri) as well. 

After winning Gold in the Under-18 District Khelo Haryana championship, you are set to represent Faridabad at the state level. What are the new steps you are taking in your training?

I am spending more time on improving my serve. I am playing more points as of now. In the state championship, it is going to be a tough competition with the other girls. So, I am also working a lot on my movement on the court.

What are the areas that you want to strengthen in your game?

I think my forehand cross-court is my biggest strength. I need to make my on-court movements quicker.  I have to also learn to keep my focus more on the ball.

What advice would you offer to girls in junior classes who are beginning to play tennis?

I have just begun my journey so I cannot say much. But I would tell them to never lose their focus.  To keep playing and try to get in the rhythm. It does not matter if you are losing initially.  Soon a point will come where you will start winning the matches.

Arijit Roy is a young correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. He has done his masters in English literature from Delhi University and has a book of poems published by Writers Workshop India. He can be reached at [email protected]