Interview with Kyra Shroff

Kyra Shroff was once hailed as the next Sania Mirza. She had won the U18 Nationals at the age of 13, which is no mean feat. While she didn’t exactly replicate her success in the Pro circuit, due to various injuries, but she seems confident for the future, as she still has ample time in her hands.

After winning the U18 Nationals at age 13, she was given a main draw wildcard at the WTA Sunfeast Open in 2007 at age 14, which was a huge learning curve for her. A year later, she won the Silver Medal for India at the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games in Pune, where she lost 1-6 2-6 to Heather Watson from Great Britain, who’s gone on to achieve great things in her pro career.

We chatted with Kyra about what she thinks of her journey, her game, role of her coach and trainer, plans for the future, and much more.

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1) When did you start playing tennis? And when did you know that you would turn pro?

I started playing at the age of 6. Apparently, my father knew that I was going to be a tennis player as soon as I was born. Not sure how much of that is true(laughs)

At around 14 years age, I was given a wildcard to the WTA Sunfeast Open Main Draw in Kolkata. Around then, I knew that I was going to turn pro. At age 13, I had won the Under-18 Nationals. So tennis was really the only career option for me.

My coach Srinath Prahlad, my trainer, Javier Capitaine, and my mind coach, Shree Advani, always encouraged me too.

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2) You’ve had a well documented struggle with diabetes. How did it affect your tennis? Does it still affect you?

Diabetes never really affected my tennis. If anything, playing professional tennis and being a professional athlete has only helped me against diabetes. I follow strict diet that a professional athlete is supposed to follow, which augurs well for a diabetic patient.

For the uninitiated, diabetes is just a condition, and not a disease. So it hasn’t ever come in the way of my tennis.

3) You were a part of Apollo Tyres and Mahesh Bhupathi’s Grand Slam Mission 2018 camp. Tell us a bit about that experience.

It was a great, great experience. I don’t think I would have been playing tennis today if it wasn’t for Mahesh. The way he mentored and guided the 20 of us was incredible. Mahesh is the best person I know in Indian tennis. He’s always there for everyone.

I think Mahesh’s contribution to Indian Tennis is not documented well enough. He’s been a mentor and has helped kickstart the careers of players like Bops(Rohan Bopanna), Sania, and is supporting Karman too now.

4) In just your 5th event as a Junior, you bagged the double crown(winning both singles and doubles) at a Grade 5 ITF Juniors event in Chennai. Any memories of that? You did not lose even a set in the singles competition.

Wow! I don’t even remember it properly. Thanks for reminding me of that, as I haven’t thought about it in a long long while now. I remember that I played a tough match against the top seed in the quarters. I remember the courts being very slippery. It was incredibly special for me to win my first title with Sri(Prahlad Srinath) present. He’s family, and he’s guided me with life as well, and not just tennis.

5) Having played with and against players like Mladenovic, Luksika Kumkhum, etc in your junior career, where do you think the gap is for Indians to translate junior success into the pros?

Well, I don’t know about Indians in general. But for me, it was injuries.

I used to play doubles almost all the time with Luksika. I played doubles with Genie in Australia. I’ve played against Babos/Mladenovic. I have played against Heather Watson twice. She literally crushed me in the finals of the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games.

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6) You have played in the 3 of the 4 GSs as a junior. What kind of preparation went into it and how was the experience playing in these pinnacle events?

Oh it was wonderful. Each Slam has a different atmosphere. The feeling of walking into the Wimbledon lawns is something different. Seeing the top players practice, the way they prepare, gives juniors such motivation to replicate that.

I remember practising on one of the outside courts, with Federer and Hewitt hitting on the very next court. It was such an incredible experience for me as those two had always been players I had looked upto as a kid.

7) 2012 was your breakout year in the pro circuit, with a CHR of 470. Any insights into what could have been done at that stage to ensure an upward surge?

Well, a lot. I remember I played with a broken shoulder for about six months, trying to make points, and trying get into the Fed Cup team. That was a bad decision I took as a 19-20 year old, in retrospect.

I remember, at that time, I was playing very close matches against the likes of Donna Vekic, so the level was always there. Injuries have been the bane for me. If I had a travelling coach and a fitness trainer travelling with me would have definitely helped, with respect to injury prevention et al.

8) If there was an aspect in your game/training that you would like to change in your formative years, what would it be?

One thing I wished I was smarter at, would be recovery. I wish I could have spent more hours and off-seasons with my trainer in Barcelona. Maybe I could have travelled with a parent as well, as having that kind of support really helps as well. I could have gone back home a bit more, spend some more time with family, and try to have more of a normal life.

9) You’ve seen how different associations around the world operate, if given a chance, how would you like to see our national association evolve?

I think more people like Somdev and Mahesh need to come on board. The national body needs to have more ex-tennis players in it. That would be the first big change. People like Somdev and Mahesh have been through the grind and know what the players go through on a daily basis. So I am sure they would be able to do the right things and implement the correct changes.

10) What do you think are strengths and weaknesses in your game?

Well, not a lot of people would have seen my play I guess, as the Futures and Challengers are not readily available to watch on TV or online. But I hope to soon graduate to the level where a lot of people could watch me play.

About my game, I play very different to the other girls. I run a lot, but also rush to the net a lot. I try to keep mixing things up. I have a good kick serve, and do not use the slice serve as much as the other girls do.

11) What are your goals for 2018?

Well, right now, it’s just about staying healthy. I would love to play a full season and take care of my body. Everything else shall fall in place.

12) How do you plan your schedule? What are the factors do you keep in mind?

Well, the schedule keeps changing week on week basis. There’s a lot of work that needs to go around with visas, etc. I am heading to Shymkent in Kazakhstan next, for a couple of weeks of $15K Futures. And shall take it from there.

13) You have recently been certified as Level 2 GSA Coach. How has the journey been and what got you interested in the certification?

First of all, GSA stands for “Global Systematic Activation” that aims to provide a holistic fitness regime to the trainees. It is the brainchild of my fitness trainer Javier Capitaine.

It is not like those usual 3 day camps after which the coaches get a certificate. I have been working for this since 2015. So a lot of hard work has gone into it. They plan to venture into India too, so let’s see how it goes.

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14) You have 10 doubles titles to your name, while none in singles. Do you feel your game is better suited to doubles? Are there any plans to focus more on doubles and probably become a doubles specialist at a later stage?

Definitely. At the moment, singles definitely is my priority. But at a later stage, if I am not making the bigger events in singles, and doubles is taking off, I see no reason as to why I should not give that a chance.

India has a history of producing great doubles players, and I see no reason why I cannot be one of them.

15) From 2019 – we will have the ITF Transition Tour. What are your thoughts on this upcoming change?

Actually, I haven’t had a chance to think about all this. I know what you are talking about, but I have been out with injury for the last 8-9 months. So I haven’t been following much, just a few live scores, and watching a few Grand Slam matches here and there. I have been training a lot, and doing my own thing to get back from injury.
16) This year during the Australian Open, you had shared your views / predictions for the event. Can the fans expect something similar for the Roland Garros too? Can this be a career option for you as well?

Why not! At the moment, I am still playing. But I would definitely love to keep my options open, and I see no reason why I would not love to give it a shot.

About predictions for Roland Garros, you would have to watch out for my Instagram closer to the tournament(laughs).

Rapid Fire –

Racquet You UseBabolat Pure Strike
Dream Mixed Doubles PartnerRoger Federer/Mahesh Bhupathi
Favorite FoodParsi Food. I don’t get to eat it too often though! 🙁
Favorite SurfaceGrass
Favorite TournamentWimbledon
Biggest win of your careerSemis of the 2008 Commonwealth Youth Games
Celebrity CrushLleyton Hewitt
A place that you haven’t been to and would like to visit?Switzerland
Favorite ShotVolley
Song that’s been on loop recentlyHave You Ever Seen The Rain
Cricket or footballFootball
Favorite CricketerBig Messi fan. An even bigger Sunil Chhetri fan

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