Karti Chidambaram and Vivek Reddy – Conversation with two of India’s finest Tennis Administrators – Prajnesh series

In the last section on Prajnesh Gunneswaran, we spoke to India’s prominent administrators, few of his friends from the tour and the juniors days.

In this article, we had the rare privilege to interact with couple of India’s finest administrators and businessman who have followed Prajnesh’s career graph very closely. We have witnessed their impact on Indian Tennis (and Tamil Nadu Tennis in particular) and also on the Indian Political and Business arenas. A brief introduction to them.

  • Karti Chidambaram : One of India’s senior most Politician and Businessman, Mr Karti Chidambaram has been associated with Tennis for over 3 decades. He was the Vice President of the AITA and the Chairman of the Organising Committee of the ATPTour Chennai Open. Mr Karti Chidambaram is currently the Vice President of the Tamil Nadu State Tennis Association.
  • Vivek Reddy : One of the prominent players in India during his playing days,  Mr Vivek Reddy was the CEO Of Kothari Pioneer Mutual Fund, the first private sector mutual fund of India between Dhirubhai’s SIL at Chennai (Shyam Kothari of Kothari Group) in 1992, (when BSE index was 2800) (Rediff article). He is the Hony. Treasurer / Joint Secretary of the Tamil Nadu State Tennis Association.

This is the final part of the 9-part series on Prajnesh Gunneswaran

  1. Prajnesh Gunneswaran – Inspiring story of a once written-off for good Tennis player
  2. A parent’s perspective into the journey of Prajnesh Gunneswaran
  3. 1987 Davis Cup final team members share their thoughts on Prajnesh Gunneswaran
  4. The man whom Prajnesh SOS’ed and who revived Prajnesh’s career – Christian Bosse
  5. If he says something, then you know he is doing it – Bastian Suwanprateep on Prajnesh
  6. “Prajnesh is a fighter. Off court he’s smiling, but on court he’s a different beast altogether” – Mr. Balachandran, Prajnesh’s mentor as well as coach from his younger days
  7. ‘Beating a top class player like Denis Shapovalov on his favourite surface was the pivotal moment for Prajnesh’ – Alexander Waske
  8. Indian kids focus a lot on Juniors but do not put the same rigor early to prepare for the Pro tour – Jonathan Stubbs
  9. Sub-parts
    1. Karti Chidambaram and Vivek Reddy – Conversation with two of India’s finest Tennis Administrators
    2. Conversation with few of Prajnesh’s friends on Tour
    3. Conversation with Varun Gunaseelan and Aakash Wagh : Prajnesh’s friends from Junior Tennis

All the articles are also published on http://www.thebridge.in

On the state of Tennis in Tamil Nadu

Karti Chidambaram

We have a couple of really good youngsters coming up but we need to support them more. These players do not have the resources but have the talent. Ramkumar Ramanathan is the biggest beneficiary of the kind of system that we had built up in Tamil Nadu. Dakshineswar has been to Spain but only very briefly. They need to be there for longer time frame and be outside India at this stage, to raise their game to the next level.

Vivek Reddy

Most of the men’s top players are from Tamil Nadu only and so we are still doing really well here. They are now nationally #1 and #2. We want to make them more prominent internationally.

Mr Vivek Reddy interviewing Vijay Amritraj and discussing about Sports / Tennis in Tamil Nadu

There is lot more work that needs to be done. We are excited as administrators towards making these things happen in the future.

  1. Produce more champions like Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan and so on.
  2. More people playing the game i.e., more awareness and spread out into the districts.
  3. Get the funds into the system to make these things happen.
Mr Vivek Reddy (right-most) at the 2019 Chennai Open Challenger

Initial impressions on Prajnesh Gunneswaran

Karti Chidambaram

Prajnesh reached the U18 and Mens finals of the National Championships. As a 17-yr old leftie to have done that, it was very impressive and something special.

I should say that he has a very supportive family. His parents are really committed to his tennis.

Vivek Reddy

I played with him when he was about 11 or 12 years old. He and his Grand father had come to the Cosmopolitan club and he was always a very talented young boy. I know his parents very well.

There was an incident that I remember – probably 24-25 years ago. Hot water had fell on his hands and they got burnt. I played with him occasionally till he was about 13-14 yrs old. He used to hit the ball really hard even then.

The other positive memory was 7-8 years ago when me/his father along with Prajnesh met Ramesh Krishnan. At that time, we were discussing whether he should become a Pro player or not or he could be like one of us – go to college and start / manage a business as he comes from an affluent family. However, Prajnesh was confident and at that moment itself, mentioned the would like to become a professional player which showed his confidence and self-belief.

He was a very hard hitter. Ofcourse everyone needs to mature and it happens in different ages for different people. It’s good to start from a base of power. When you have the maturity come-in later, you can control your shots and you will reach a good balance.

Mr Vivek Reddy (left-bottom) – Organizer Adidas MCC National Juniors 2008
Also in the picture – Ronit Bisht, Sharon Paul, Kyra Shroff and Abhijeet Tiwari
Photo Credits: TNTA

Thoughts on his journey

Karti Chidambaram

Prajnesh could have had this success at an earlier age like 23-25 if his progression from the National Finals was planned properly. He had several injury breaks, then he went to the US Collegiate Tennis for an year before moving to the Waske Tennis University.

I had first introduced the TNTA boys to the Alexander Waske Tennis-University. Took Sriram Balaji there and then several other boys like Jeevan and others went there too. It has made a huge difference to all these players.

Prajnesh is highly talented, got an explosive game with a big serve.

Photo credits: TNTA

Vivek Reddy

Generally the aspect of our Indian players is, we become the strongest at the age bracket of 25-30 while the others tend to reach that stage in the 20-25 age group. Now with the modern technology and the strength and the conditioning involved, one can play at a higher level till the age of 35. So Prajnesh has a good 5-6 years of top class tennis left.

I have been following almost every match of his and the improvement is visible. He has become much more offensive. His backhand is good now and his forehand is even stronger. He is improving in all aspects of his game including his physical qualities.

Mr Vivek Reddy with Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sai Samhitha and others in 2006

The biggest quality of Prajnesh which nobody probably realizes –

Prajnesh is the only player, not just in India but internationally, not just in Tennis but in any Sport – He is one of the rare athletes who reached the elite stage coming from an affluent business background. Usually when someone comes from that background, he/she would not have that desire or hunger to pursue the passion to such an extreme. Prajnesh has a lot of self-confidence and belief which is remarkable.

– Mr Vivek Reddy

Secondly, in spite of so-many injuries for so long, he still had the self-belief and at 28/29, he is playing his best tennis which shows the confidence that Prajnesh had in himself.

I watched Prajnesh play a final in Madras about 3-4 years ago. He was trying for everyball. He lost the first set, was down in the second as well. On the crucial points, he was giving it his everything and made his opponent play one more point which yielded the error. He won that point which turned the match around and he ended up winning the match.

So one could easily see the fighting spirit of Prajnesh. This is something that has to come from within, not something that can be taught. God gives it to some people and doesn’t for others. Prajnesh has it.

Mr Vivek Reddy giving an inspiring talk to the Financial Industry

What do you think he needs to do as he transitions to the top-100 level

Karti Chidambaram

I think now he is on a good base. He understands his game now and understands the physicality of the game. He just has to stay healthy. He has probably 5-6 years of good tennis left.

He has to focus on playing the bigger events instead of the Challenger events. I saw him play in Stuttgart, he won against Shapovalov and was 1 match away from playing Roger Federer. Playing $150K challenger is fine but should be an exception than the norm.

It will be a matter of time before he cracks the top-100 and once he has done that, he is in a different league as he will be in the Grand Slam main draws.

Hopefully he starts playing doubles occasionally as well. It will help him improve his return game and his volleying skills.

Photo credits: Mr Karti Chidambaram Twitter Account
Mr Chidambaram with Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sai Samhitha and others
Photo credits: TNTA

Vivek Reddy

Everybody is now scared of his forehand. If everybody can get scared of his backhand also then there is no place to attack Prajnesh. For backhand, more rotation and a quick release of whipping the ball will give it even more venom.

Perhaps a nice one-hand slice like Nadal which is very important. Also going to the net more often.  

Civil Engineer by profession|Tennis fan by heart|Introvert by nature


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