When you muse over the future of Indian tennis, Manish Sureshkumar would definitely be a name which will come to your mind. The Chennai lad, who just turned 19 has already been making waves on the pro-circuit. He is already in the top-600 of ATP Rankings and has an ITF Pro-Circuit Title to his name. After talking to us in this interview, he also made headlines in China when he consistently beat players ranked above him to qualify for the Challenger in Jinan.
With the world ahead of him, we can surely hope that he will carry Indian tennis forward in the days to come.
Pic Courtesy: Kamesh Srinivasan Sir
When did you start playing tennis? What made you take up the game?
I started when I was around 9. Just started as a hobby. My dad just put me in tennis, because there was a tennis court near my house. That’s how I started.
So when did you decide that you are going to make it as you career?
Actually I decided around 14.Maybe 14-15, that’s when I started playing a bit better.
How big a support has your family been? Can you share something about your background?
My family has been a huge support, especially my dad. He always supports me and encourages me to achieve bigger. Even my mom, she has always been there. They haven’t travelled much with me for tournaments but still they have been a huge support for me.
You mentioned that at 14, you took the decision to make tennis as your career. At that time, you were already making a name in the Indian circuit. But you haven’t played much in the junior circuit. Can you share the reason behind it?
I thought that, if I have to play juniors I have to spend a lot. It made sense to play juniors only if I play all the four Grand Slams. So I thought, for me to get there, there will be a huge amount of expense involved. Maybe that’s the reason I didn’t play much juniors. I thought I could start playing the pro circuit.
What is the plan that you have for the next two- three years? Are you looking at going to College in US or training abroad?
I don’t know as of know. But maybe if I get a few sponsors I might go abroad to train. But I don’t think I will go to college. Maybe I will go for Masters after finishing the UG.
But in 2016, you were seriously considering US College tennis route. Were you in contact with any colleges at that time?
Actually I was double minded. I just posted the video on You Tube, but I wasn’t really sure on going to US for College. I was just double-minded and at the end just decided to stay here.
TNTA has been supporting players a lot. So like other TNTA players, have you had any stints in Spain or anything similar to that? Have they lent any support?
Actually not much. But maybe once or twice. They had given me a Challenger Wild Card in Chennai. That was very good. Financially, Karti Sir has helped me to some extent.
You are just on the back of a great run in the Sri Lankan Futures. You got your maiden ITF Pro Circuit Title and also had a runners-up and a semi-final finish. So how was the experience winning your first title? Did you do anything differently compared to Egypt or Indonesia?
Actually I was working on lot of strengths after Egypt. For me, strength has been the main aspect. So I was working more in these three weeks. I was focusing on playing solid and not about the result, i.e. winning or losing. I got sharper match by match and match and got used to the court conditions really well. Maybe that’s what mattered.
Manish Sureshkumar after winning his maiden Pro Circuit Title in SriLanka
Photo Courtesy: Sri Lanka Tennis Association
You have jumped around 100 places now and will be ranked around #586 when the next rankings come out. So what are the goals that you have set for yourself?
Definitely I’m looking to crack top-300, maybe by next year. So that’s my goal. I’m planning on playing a lot more Challengers next year.
Manish Sureshkumar with Vaidehi Chaudari after winning YMCA TTT-ITF Juniors
Photo Courtesy: The Hindu
You haven’t played yet in Europe. Any reason for that?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just convenient playing tournaments in Asia. I had just been to Europe once-one month for training. The court conditions are definitely different over there.
Where was that?
It was in Tennis Val in Valencia. In Europe, it’s (Clay) totally different. It’s very slow, the ball comes very slow. In Sri Lanka, the clay is like how it is in India. There is actually a huge difference. It’s completely different.
You are in the top-10 of ATP Rankings with players ranked under 19. Will making the NextGen Tour Final be a goal for you?
Ya, definitely, it is a goal (for me). But I won’t be thinking about that. I will be thinking about getting into the top- 300. That’s my goal. Maybe if that happens, ATP Next Gen can happen.
You are currently training at the Chennai Tennis Centre. Can you share a bit about your coach and the training that you undergo there?
My tennis coach is Suresh Sir & Balaji Sir. Suresh Sonachalam & Balaji Ramasamy. I have been training with them since I was 9 years old. They have been a great support to me. Even my fitness coach Mr. Thygarajan has helped me a lot.
What are the inputs that they have given you so far? Where do they think you should work on?
They believe that I have to work on strength. We are working as a team and we have been discussing a lot. We have been making plans to make my game better and improve day by day.
Your academy also features Ramkumar, Sai Samhita & others.You have also posted videos of your training with Ramkumar. How has the experience of playing with top athletes shaped your game so far? Have you had any big sessions with other players?
Ya, definitely playing with Ram was a great experience. Whenever he’s in Chennai, I’ll play with him. He’ll come to Anna University. I thank him for coming and helping me gain some experience. I also train with Prajnesh when he’s in Chennai. We play at the Ramachandra University in Chennai.
Tamil Nadu players have a close bond on tour. Even Vijay had mentioned your name in our interview with him. Any support/ mentorship you receive from your seniors who are experienced on tour?
I will play with Vijay also, when he’s in Chennai. Ya, definitely they are guiding me in a lot of aspects. Especially Prajnesh and Vijay anna. They are guiding me well.
Even Sasi Kumar Mukund mentioned Prajnesh and Vijay in his interview. You, Sasi Kumar Mukund, Dakshineshwar Suresh are the next crop of playing coming from Tamil Nadu. So how is the bond between you?
It’s really good actually. Me and Mukund have travelled to same tournaments. We both are in good contact. I know Dakshin since I was a kid. So we are very close to each other and discuss a lot.
Manish with Mukund (Extreme right), Ramkumar (Top) and coach Suresh Kumar (Middle)
You rather seem skinny for a tennis player, almost along the mould of Giles Simon. So how do you manage to keep up with the big guys? Have you been hitting the gym?
Yes, I’m hitting the gym for three-four times a week. I’m trying to get bigger. Actually I’m way better. Two years back, I used to be very skinny. So maybe that’s what is helping me face these guys.
How have you been able to manage your education & your career? Has your school been supportive?
Yes my school has been really supportive. Especially Lady Andal – I studied 11th & 12th there. Till 10th grade I studied in Chinmaya (Vidyalaya). But I shifted because they weren’t ready to give me permission. Lady Andal gave me a lot of permission. I used to go in at 11(a.m) and come out at 1:40(p.m). I just used to write exams and they were very supportive.
How has the experience been so far for you on the tour? Has it been
lonely/hard traveling alone at such a young age?
Actually it has been very enjoyable. I’m learning a lot of new things, meeting different people. So it’s all a good experience. I don’t think it’s hard, it’s kind of enjoyable.
How have you been managing your finances. Do you get any outside support or sponsorship?
I’m sponsored by Yonex. So they are giving me racquets and apparel. But financially, there is no one to support-only my dad. Mostly when I play tournaments I break even. I don’t make a profit and I don’t make a loss. That’s how I have been managing. But definitely at the challenger level there will be a lot of expense. So I will have to see about that. Also, with the new rule change it makes more sense to play Challengers.
Rapid Fire –
|Racquet You Use||Yonex SV 100|
|Dream Mixed Doubles Partner||Sania Mirza|
|Favorite Food||Chicken Biryani|
|Favorite Tournament||The one in Sri Lanka|
|Most memorable win of your career||Steven Diez. He is a former Top 200 player|
|Celebrity Crush||Disha Patani|
|A place that you haven’t been to and would like to visit?||Paris|
|Favorite Shot||Backhand down the line|
|Favorite Song||Perfect by Ed Sheeran|
|Cricket or football||Football|
|Forehand or backhand||Backhand|