Interview with Pranjala Yadlapalli

Born in Guntur, same city as Seles-slayer Laxmi Poruri, 18-year old Pranjala Yadlapalli started Tennis at the age of 6, moved to Hyderabad as the base and was ranked as high as #15 in the world in Juniors (highest ranked Indian after Sania Mirza). Currently, in her early stages as a Pro player, the 18-year old is seen as one of India’s best bets to be the next top-100 player.

She already has to her credit – WTA Future Stars Championship title, Quarter Final at the Aus Open Grand Slam Juniors, ITF Futures title from Egypt and been part of the Mumbai Champions League Team. She has consistently been the #1 ranked junior in India and is already in the top-3 of Womens within the first year of turning Pro.

Indian Tennis Daily got a chance to interview her while she was in Bangalore training for her future tournaments.

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Here are the excerpts :

Q) When did you start playing tennis? What got you interested?

I started playing tennis when I was 6 years old. My parents put me into Sports as a mechanism to keep me energetic and fit instead of watching TV. There was a Tennis court near my house and they enrolled me there. After the initial few months, the Coach started giving feedback to my parents that I had good potential and that I was already playing good rallies at a young age. Simultaneously, I got interested in Tennis too and seeing my interest, my parents took my tennis a bit more seriously.  

Q) How was the experience of winning the Orange Bowl doubles title?

I really enjoyed it. The atmosphere was very good. It is a tournament in which all the best players from the world participate and so it has that aura associated with it.

During the tournament, my coordination with my partner was very good. We played few good teams, won the matches and ultimately the title, so it was an enriching experience.

Q) Your partner, Tamara Zidansek, has already cracked the top 200 in the WTA Rankings? Where do you think is the gap for Indians?

We need to work more on our movement, footwork. The Europeans focus on body conditioning, strength, fitness, footwork and movement from a very young age and so by the time they are in the teenage / junior circuit, they are well refined. Unfortunately, we focus on these aspects only after we are well into the Junior Circuit, so we take a bit of a hit there.  

Q) Was it a conscious decision to skip Juniors this year. Do you think it paid off?

Yes it was since I had played all the Grand Slams already. At the start of the year, I had pulled my back because of which I could not play the Australian Open even though I had the main draw entry. I had already reached my highest rank of #15.

From that point, I felt that I should concentrate on the Women’s circuit and I think it has worked well. I have gained confidence with few matches against top players, so it has come along well.

Q) Earlier in the year, you had spent two months at the JTCC Tennis Academy. What prompted the move and why JTCC? How has this 2-month stint improve your game?

When I went there, they worked on the aspects where I was lacking, like my footwork and movement. The coach took care of me really well. What I had lacked on the court, the coach used to speak to my fitness trainer and have him focus on those specific aspects during the fitness training, which improved my game. This gave me a lot of confidence and I could feel the difference in my game too.

I really enjoyed my time there and feel that the stinct has had a good impact on my game this year.

Q) What do you consider as the strengths and weaknesses in your game and why?

Strong point are my groundstrokes as I am an aggressive player. To improve my game further, I am working on my footwork. I have improved a lot already. To move it to the top level, I have to improve it much more and get better and stronger.

I am currently training at the Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academy (MBTA) in Bangalore under CGK Bhupathi sir. I have had two 1-week stints there between the Thailand and Colombo tournaments.

Q) Tennis is a very expensive sport. Can you expand at a high level on some of the costs involved and the overall costs in an year (Futures / Challengers)? What has been the impact of the GVK Foundation and other sponsors?

First of all, I would like to thank GVK Sir for sponsoring me. Without him, I would not even be playing Tennis today. Tennis is a really expensive sport and tough to afford. Per year, we need Rs 20 lakhs just for the tournaments for you and the person accompanying you.

For training, when I went to the JTCC Academy, each week costed $1,000 just for the training. The boarding, lodging, food and everything else was expensive too. To play Tennis and play events abroad, a player needs good sponsorship backing him/her.

If the Government supports, the situation will be much better. For the past 4-5 years, the GVK group has been supporting me.

Q) Do you have anybody who accompanies you to the Tennis events?

I always travel with one of my parents. For the ITF colombo event of two weeks, I also had a trainer accompany me. In the past, I had the trainer with me for the US Open too.

Q) How does a trainer traveling help you during the week?

The trainer makes you do the routines before/after the match. The fitness levels remain high. If there is a trainer, we don’t have to think about what kind of fitness training routine have to do whereas with a trainer, he/she knows what is required for the player based on the longevity and the physicality of the matches.

Q) Goals for the upcoming year

We have 6 tournaments in India till this year-end. We have the $25k Pune, WTA Mumbai, two $15Ks and two $25Ks coming up in India itself. I hope to utilize these events to make it to the top-300 ranking by the end of the year.

Q) You won your first pro title this year in Egypt. How did it feel? Where do you think Pro Tennis and Juniors differ?

I was very happy winning the Egypt event as it was after a long time (it was also after a break). The tournament was also very good. I won the final after being 4-1 down in the 3rd set.

In Women’s and Juniors – we both have hard hitters and grinders. However, to move to the top, one would have to be more aggressive and take the ball early. So one needs to make necessary adjustments as he/she moves up.

Q) How is the Tennis Circuit scene in Hyderabad? Do you keep a tab on the upcoming players from your hometown / city?

There are many players in Hyderabad across the Juniors / Seniors and both Mens / Womens – the scene is pretty good now.

There are not so many players from Guntur as there is not much of tennis culture there. Even if a player is coming up from Guntur, they would have likely moved to Hyderabad from the Tennis perspective.

Q) What are the best parts of life on the tour? What do you like and dislike?

It is all a part of the journey to reach one’s goals – no real likes or dislikes. I have to travel, eat the food I get, the conditions, the weather – it is all a part of the journey to make it to the top in Tennis. The journey will not be perfect, we have to be flexible and get used to the things on the way – however it may be.

To summarize, I neither have a strong liking nor a disliking, it is all a part of the means towards the end goal.

Rapid Fire Questions

Dream Mixed Doubles PartnerRoger Federer
Things you do when you are freeTV, Books
Favorite foodChicken Biryani
The song that’s been on loop for you recentlyTelugu / Hindi / English songs. Varies based on the mood
Favorite footballerRonaldo
Celebrity CrushShahid Kapoor
Favorite country you’ve been to and why?I like the US as a place and also enjoy the food there
A place you haven’t been to but love to visitSwitzerland
Favorite surfaceHard
Favorite tournamentWimbledon
Best friend on TourEveryone

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