This is the third in a series of articles going in-depth into the journey of Karman Kaur Thandi, who at age 20, became just the sixth Indian woman to crack the top 200 in the WTA Rankings
Previous articles in the series –
1) Raw talent > Work In Progress > Finished Product – Journey of Karman Kaur Thandi
2) “Karman playing Tennis is like Sehwag playing Cricket” – Coach Aditya Sachdeva
“As a parent, I can keep telling the whole world that my kid is very good at Tennis, and nobody would listen. But when a legend like Mahesh(Bhupathi) says the same, they will come out and support.” These words from Karman’s father, Mr. Chetanjit Singh Thandi, are enough to highlight the impact Bhupathi has had on young Karman’s career.
Bhupathi has been a pillar of support for Karman for quite sometime now, helping her family take care of her travel and training expenses. He’s also been on top of her development, overseeing her transition to the professional ranks. Read away for some insights from the legend on Karman’s game, and what she needs to in order to move ahead in her pro career –
Q. You spotted Sumit(Nagal) when he was 11, and you’ve backed him from that early an age. How and when did you first spot Karman? What stood out in her game when you first saw her play? What were your first impressions?
Well, with Karman, it has been three years. Been backing her for three years now.
I think she just had the potential to develop a big game. She is a tall girl, has a big serve, and obviously works really hard. The potential to have a big game is what was special. In modern day Tennis, you need to have a big game to make it to the top. That’s what stood out.
Q. You’d requested Patrick Mouratoglou to go watch one of Karman’s junior matches at the Australian Open. You’d decided to send her to Mouratoglou Tennis Academy right after. What drove that choice?
I’ve been on the tour for 25 years. So I know what’s good and what’s not. Djokovic and Serena train at the Mouratoglou’s, so obviously they have got to be the best in the world. So that was when I requested Patrick(Mouratoglou) to go and have a look at her game, and he was impressed as well. That is how her relationship at Mouratoglou’s started.
Q. How do you think she’s evolved after her stint there?
Well, she’s moving in the right direction every year. On tour, she’s been going up the rankings. Unfortunately, she’s injured now. But that’s part and parcel of professional sport. So I’m sure once she recovers, she’ll be ready to go again.
Q. Karman’s strengths are her forehand and serve obviously. But her backhand also improved in the last few years. What do you think are aspects in her game that need to improve in order for her to take the next step in her career?
Every single part of her game needs to improve. I don’t think any part of her game is world class at the moment. Sure, her strengths are her forehand and her serve, but there are a lot of girls out there with a better forehand and a better serve. You need to work hard on your weaknesses, but you need to work harder on your strengths – I am a big believer of this. She still needs to constantly develop her all-round game.
Q. Karman has been under the spotlight since a very young age and people have had huge expectations from her. How do you think she has coped with it so far? Do you think it burdens the athlete, especially when they are very young?
I think pressure and expectations are part and parcel of the process to try and become a champion. From an athlete’s perspective, the biggest expectation is from within themselves. I know Karman is a very ambitious girl and she focuses on what her goals her are, rather than being bogged down by expectations from outside. So it’s good to have that kind of attitude because it forces you to push harder when things are not going your way.
Q. You’ve made a lot of efforts to help provide junior talent in India the right platform to make noise at the singles game. Right from the Apollo Mission 2018, to getting JSW and Ola Cabs to support Sumit and Karman, respectively. How tough is it to convince these corporates to come onboard?
First of all, it wasn’t Ola Cabs as a company that supported Karman, but it was Bhavish(CEO of Ola Cabs) and his wife who did it in individual capacity.
The support stems from the fact that you like the sport. And when you like the sport, a lot of them are open to extending support to the talent. Moreover, the fact that they know that I am going to be watching over all aspects of their development gives them the extra assurance and comfort.
Q. Lastly, after Sumit and Karman, any upcoming juniors you are excited about?
Yeah there are a couple of kids I have heard about, but haven’t watched them play yet. There’s this big kid from Tamil Nadu(Dhakshineswar Suresh) who’s apparently six-foot something. There’s another kid from Bangalore(Adil Kalyanpur) who’s been training at Nadal’s in Spain. So I think they’ll be the ones to watch out for.