Interview by Vishnu Reddy, Pratheek Krishna – 22nd August, 2018
Gaurang Shukla – Indian Team and Rohan Bopanna’s physio, has been a growing influence on the Indian Tennis scene over the last few years. Having started off with Shyamal’s HEAL institute, Gaurang has worked on the IPTL circuit and is on the ATP WorldTour with Rohan Bopanna, Rajeev Ram and Bruno Soares. Gaurang is also the Indian Team physio for the Davis Cup and the current Asian Games squad.
In this interview taken couple of months ago, Gaurang takes us through his journey in Tennis, working as Rohan’s physio, time split with his players, learnings on interactions with other physios and much more.
Overall photo credits: Gaurang Shukla, The HEAL Institute
Background into your journey as a Sports Physiotherapist.
I am based in Bombay. I never wanted to become a Physio in the first place as such but my dad was a doctor and it was a natural progression for me. Once I started, I always loved Sports and I did my Masters in Sports at the Guru Nanak Dev University in Amritsar, so the journey started from there.
I started working under Shyamal Vallabhjee who used to be with Mahesh Bhupathi. My first tennis stint was with the IPTL. I have done all the seasons with the IPTL till date. The players started knowing me from there.
I started off with the Bangkok challengers and then went to Australia with Mahesh Bhupathi. After Mahesh stopped playing, I started with Rohan Bopanna and it has been a very good journey so far. As you are active on the circuit, more players know you and so have grown from there.
I have focused on only Tennis as of now.
Gaurang Shukla with the Davis Cup team in China after the victory
Difference between what you learnt at the University vs real-life experience in Tennis.
It is totally different. Every player is different, every player has a different routine, warm-up and exercises to do. You learn a lot on the tour. It is my 3rd year on the tour now. The interactions with the other physios say from Germany, France and other countries help me learn a lot as well. My technique and approach has evolved during this time through these interactions.
Based on your interactions, how is tennis different from other sports?
Tennis is more physical than most other sports. More so in singles but its pretty physical in doubles as well. It is not a linear sport, instead, you are always changing your direction on the court and so have to be extremely nimble. You need extremely high-level of hand-eye coordination, depth perception as the ball comes from the top, you need the stamina, the muscles and the explosive strength. Tennis challenges all aspects of fitness when one is playing at the highest level.
How did your association with Rohan start and your journey so far?
I started with Rohan about 3 years back. Yash Pandey was the physio for Rohan and so when Yash stopped, I moved into the role. I had done enough of clinic work and I wanted to get more exposure in this path anyway, so decided to start off.
Gaurang with Rohan Bopanna after the French Open 2017 win
As you started off with Rohan, any changes that you had to bring in.
It was more of optimizing what Rohan was already doing. Certain aspects like, start of season vs end of season, surface, etc,. influences things a bit. During the tour, we don’t change the routines as much. Its mainly strengthening what he requires – like the shoulders, legs and so on.
Gaurang with Rohan Bopanna during the French Open 2018
While travelling with Rohan, you must have met many fellow physiotherapists, who are working with other players. Can you share more detail on the cameredie, the learnings and other detail.
Lot of learnings. There is a German physio called Stefan, he has a huge following on Instagram – I learn a lot from him. He was also there for the IPTL and so I almost have like a one-on-one learning with him.
I also learn a lot from Kate Mahony, she was with Tennis Australia and now works with the Australian Womens Cricket team.
Gaurang with Stefan at the IPTL
How is your time split amongst the players.
I am also involved with Rajeev Ram and Bruno Soares. I am traveling for about 25-30 weeks on the tour. All the 3 players are very understanding. Every night, I text all the players.
Best friends on tour.
It has to be Scotty, Rohan’s coach, we stay together and hang out together as well. In terms of Physiotherapists, it is Stefan.
Gaurang on the tour with Rohan Bopanna and Scott David
Importance of diet for a Tennis player
It is extremely important. Rohan had undergone a test recently and he was allergic to yeast as per that. He wasn’t aware of that before and now he is completely off bread, lost a lot of kilos because of that.
Wherever he goes, he is strict on that. Rohan eats a combination of protein carbs, he loves his meat. Some meat and rice. He loves Sushi as well.
Rohan’s fitness schedule during the week of a tournament and during off-season.
During the tournament days, we just do the regular routines, not stress out too much. Probably 30 to 45 mins of training because he would have 2 sessions of practice anyway. So about 2 hours on the court and 1 hour in the Gym.
On the practice days, once the practice session is done, we go back into the Gym and work more on certain aspects that he might want to improve, like to slide better, loading up of one leg and things like that.
Any general advice for young players to follow which would physically help them to be ready for the Pro Tour.
It is different from player to player. Everyone has an individual program. However, Strength does play an important role while growing up. If you look at the other players, they are much stronger and can last for 5 sets. I don’t want us to fall behind.
We have lot of institutes like the Institute for Sports – everyone is at least aware of what is happening to their body, the injuries that happen – so those are all getting prevented now.
Any advice for new Sports Physiotherapists coming into the scene.
I would say just get into the sport. The skill is not going to change but the approach changes from sport to sport. The injuries in sports like Kabaddi, Football, etc,. are different to what we have in Tennis. We need to adapt to what the player is doing or the sport is doing.
Your business involvements in India
I am involved with HEAL (www.thehealinstitute.in) – started by Shyamal Vallabhjee. I was the first physio hired. It started with 1 bed and has now grown into multiple centers now.
I used to head the center in Colaba. I am still a consultant there. So whenever I am back home, if I have time and if someone wants to see me, I meet them there.
Few quotes from Gaurang as part of his work with the HEAL Institute.