Interview with Nidhi Chilumula

Close on the heels of Sania Mirza, Nidhi Chilumula emerged as yet another top Tennis player from the historic city of Hyderabad. Nidhi started Tennis at the age of 8 and still in the early stages of her career, the 23-year old already has quite a few accomplishments to her name.

She has been a silver medalist in two editions of the National Games, won her first ITF title as an 18-year old, part of the 2015 Champions Tennis League Runners up team, consistently ranked in the top-10 in Indian Tennis and many other impressive credentials.

Indian Tennis Daily got a chance to interview her while she was at the ITF tournament in Sri Lanka.

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Here are the excerpts :

When did you start playing tennis and what got you interested in playing tennis in the first place?

The entry to tennis was accidental. I started playing at the age of 8. There was a ground near my home where kids used to play Cricket and they used to break the windows of the neighbor’s house. The Colony members were fed up and decided to convert the ground into tennis courts. From there on, I initially started playing tennis along with my dad and brother to remain healthy and fit.

My brother stopped playing after a year but I got really interested and continued playing. I started participating in local tournaments, started winning a few matches and tournaments, and the journey continued from there.

What is the role of your family in your success? Tell us about some sacrifices you have made in order to pursue pro (tennis) career

My parents have been very supportive from the beginning. My Dad is an Advocate and had a busy life with work. However, he took out time for my Tennis and used to travel and be there to support me. Time matters a lot more than the money and I am grateful for that.

Personally, unlike other youngsters, I did not have the College life experience. I did not go to College much because of Tennis and used to study only before the exams. However, I would still prefer my path as I have been able to travel, meet new people and get the overall exposure. This would not have been possible without Tennis.

Who was your idol/role model growing up?

Justine Henin. She  was also not really tall and really liked her style of play. On the Mens side, I like Roger Federer.

Amongst the Indian players, Sania Mirza has been an inspiration. I really admire her mental strength. I had also trained for 2 years at the Sania Mirza Tennis Academy (SMTA) and it was a really good experience.

Who is your Coach and where you train currently?

I train at SportsCult Academy under Vijay Kumar sir. He was a coach at the SMTA and had to leave after an year. Even I had to leave after that  and now I train at his Academy.

Your practice schedule. What kind of physical training you do to keep yourself in top shape?

In the morning, from 6 to 8 AM,  I do fitness at a ground near my home. Then I travel to the Academy which is 26 KMS away from my place. I play long in the morning and play for about 3-4 hours from 9 AM to 12-1 PM.

Then I come back home and in the evening, I practice in a Stadium closer to my home with other Tennis players.

What racket do you play with?

Yonex EZONE DR 98 310g

Do you follow any ritual before/during the match.

Before the match, I meditate for 10 mins. This helps to focus better.

During the match, I have a ritual of touching the line with the Racquet while receiving the serve. There are few other similar rituals that I follow.

If you had to change any aspects of your approach to Tennis / Physical conditioning during your formative years? What would that be?

I would have preferred to focus more on endurance. This really helps with playing long rallies and matches – your body is more fresher and can continue with the same intensity. To achieve that level of endurance, I would do intense workouts with no break and for longer period of time.

Did you ever consider taking the College route before turning pro? If yes, what were the pro / cons? If not, why didn’t you consider that path?

I did get few messages from the coaches about my interest in US College Tennis but somehow it never really interested me.

What are your goals for the end of 2017, and upcoming 2018?

I am aiming to be in the top 300 by 2018. For me to get there, I mostly need to approach my matches better – focusing on the important points, not to give up under any situation and play smarter Tennis. The improvements in these areas will enable me to reach that goal.

Tennis is a very expensive sport. Can you expand a bit on the Sponsorship that you have received so far?

I never really had a sponsor in the early stages of my career. About two years back, I got a job in the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL). IOCL has really supported me well and take care of my accommodation and travel expenses for about 8 tournaments in India every year. This has been a great boost and appreciate IOCL’s support this.

In the past, Hetero Pharmacy had also supported me for couple of years.

Any advice that you would give to Parents of upcoming players?

In the early stages, it is important to focus on the overall improvement of the Child’s game. They should not be result oriented, as the improvements to the game happen, the results will take care of themselves in the long-term.

Instead, I notice the parents guide their kids a lot outside of the courts on how to play Tennis in addition to the coaches – this is not really needed and increases the stress for the kids. They should let the kids enjoy the process and take a more long-term view by focusing on the overall improvement.

Given your experience of how foreign tennis federations are operating, any changes that you would make to our Country’s Tennis Program?

The AITA does not really help the players much. It would have been beneficial to have a National Camp around once or twice an year with the top players being there.  

In addition, for the top-10 players at least, the AITA could support for few of the tournaments with expenses or sponsorship or at least racquet / clothing support. The Badminton Federation is doing quite a bit for its players. I hope we have something in Tennis too.

How did the Champions Tennis League (CTL) opportunity come about and how was the experience?

I would call it out as one of the best 10 days of my tennis career so far. I was part of the Hyderabad Aces team which includes the likes of Martina Hingis, Mikhail Youzhny and Mark Philippoussis. I had the opportunity to practice with Martina, discuss the playing strategies and hit with her for those 10 days.

Overall, it was a huge learning experience and I am very grateful for that opportunity.

How was the experience of playing in the National Games and representing your state?

It is always a good feeling to play for your State or your Country – you feel more responsible and it is an enriching experience.

My first National Games experience was in 2011 in Ranchi, Jharkand. We won the Silver medal in the team event there. Then in the 2015 edition in Kerala, I was able to win two Silver medals which was a great experience.

How is the Tennis scene in Hyderabad now? How have the things changed in the recent past.

After the emergence of Sania Mirza, lot of kids have taken to Tennis. Lot more kids are now choosing Tennis as their primary sport or event career. Sania Mirza Tennis Academy has also started which has given a boost to Tennis in the city.

The only downside is that no one is ready to sponsor for Tennis tourneys anymore. In the past, we used to have the WTA Hyderabad Open. There were also lot of ITF events in the city in the Jubilee Hills Club and other premises. They have come down significantly now. Unfortunately, this appears to be a trend across India as well.

Rapid Fire –

What do you do in your free time?Enjoy dancing, singing and watching movies
Dream Mixed Doubles PartnerRoger Federer
Favorite FoodChicken Biryani
Favorite SurfaceGrass
Favorite TournamentOverall – Wimbledon.

For the events I played, the Grass Court Nationals

Favorite MovieChak De India
Favorite TV ShowFriends
Cricket or FootballFootball. Ronaldo is my favourite
The song that’s been on loop for you recentlyGood Life (The Fate of the Furious)
Favorite city and why?Hyderabad – Its my home, really like the place and the food.

I like Chandigarh as well

Celebrity CrushSiddharth Malhotra
Best win of your careerITF $10K Lucknow in 2013. It was my first ever international title and I had won the doubles event there on the Grass courts.
Best friend on tourNatasha Palha



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