Arthi Muniyan may not be a name you have heard of, but the tale of her unlikely journey into the Tennis world is definitely one you should be aware about. From starting at the age of 12, to achieving a career high WTA Ranking of 1263 is no mean feat.
In this chat, Arthi talks about the struggles she’s had and has to face on a daily basis, the support she’s received so far, interesting anecdote with Singaporean Tennis player Sarah Pang, and the unexpected friends she’s made on the journey –
Q) Where were you brought up? How and when did you start playing Tennis?
My Dad was in the Army. First, I started playing in Lucknow but I used to play with club members there. Then we were transferred to Amritsar which was also unsatisfactory. So, for my Tennis, my Dad got transferred to Chennai in 2011.
There weren’t many players for me to play with. So, I used to play with small kids. After improving my game upto a certain level, I started playing AITA tournaments. Gradually, I started playing ITFs as well and got my first point in 2015. But I got injured and had to take a break. Now I’m back and I reached my highest rank of India No.18.
Q) Please tell us a bit about the coaches you’ve worked with over the years
In Lucknow, like I mentioned, I used to play with the club members. So, no proper coaching over there. In Chennai, Hiten Joshi Sir trained me. He’s an excellent technical coach under him many of the top Indian players have trained. I still train over there but now I’m looking to train with other players and coaches. Till now, all the matches I’ve played, are without proper training and coaching. All the players over here play many number of sets, have a fitness routine and proper conditioning. But I have to do everything on my own.
Q) You played your first ITF Pro Event in 2012, 7 years back. How much has the experience helped and transformed your game? And you, overall?
After the injury, It was like a fresh start. It feels like you’re playing your first match. About the experience, the most important lesson I learnt was ‘patience’, ‘watch the ball & don’t lose sight of the ball’, and ‘don’t make errors’. Most important thing is to be happy.
I’ll tell you a personal incident that happened with me. I was playing an AITA tournament and in the quarters I was 2-5 down and was very nervous. I asked myself “Arthi, what’s more important, this match or happiness?” I chose happiness, and I went on the court with a smile and went on to win that match in the tiebreaker.
Q) You didn’t play much on the ITF Junior Circuit. Any particular reason?
That’s because I started tennis late. I started playing when I was 12. As I’ve told you before, that I used to play with old club members. When I shifted to Chennai, I played a couple of Under 18 tournaments and I reached till Top 50 also and after that I just started playing Women’s.
Q) Apart from a few events in Egypt, you have played in India exclusively. Funding may have been an issue. Can you shed a bit of light on how tough it is to get sponsors on board.
For majority of my career, my Dad only helped me financially. He is retired, I have no idea how he’s doing it but he is and my sister, she’s an aspiring dentist, and my dad is supporting her as well. But everyone is really supportive and passionate about my tennis. Even when I went to Egypt, they had full confidence in me. At that point of time, my back started to hurt a little and It was my first time travelling in a flight. I had to change 3 flights and I went all by myself. My first match in Egypt was against a French player. It was a 3 setter. The medics told me to rest. And next week I played with a tape on my back. But my Dad never declined me of travelling for tournaments. He would let me go wherever I wanted to go. He is a very positive person. But my sister is the most positive person in my family. She is my advisor. Her ideology is “Why worry now for something that you won’t even remember after 2 days.”
About sponsors, After Sarah’s post, a few people contacted me for financial help. I’d like to thank my ‘Singapore Anna’ Mr. Bhaskara Rajan. He sends me 5000 rupees monthly. He is very supportive and a very generous human being. The first person to help me was actually Sarah Pang’s elder sister. She gave me 50 Singaporean Dollars.
Q) So do you have any sponsors currently?
One person I would like to share about is a businesswoman based in Kolkata, Ms. Sunita Sigtia. She’s sponsoring several chess players and another tennis player. She’s a big Roger Federer fan. She called me and sponsored my kit and racquets. I’m thankful to God for such positive people around me.
About SiiRF Foundation –
The businesswoman mentioned above is Ms. Sunita Sigtia, who’s a huge Federer fan, runs a sports foundation by the name of SiiRF Foundation, named after the Swiss maestro. It was started on 08/08/2017, officially, on Federer’s birthday. They are supporting 6 sportspersons across different fields currently, including Arthi
Q) Singaporean Tennis player Sarah Pang recently wrote a heart-warming note on you. How did your relationship with her start? And what do you make of the note she wrote about you?
I actually started crying after reading the note. We first met 4-5 years back in Hyderabad for a tournament. I went to her asking if she has an extra racquet. And if she could practice with me. She is so pleasant. Players don’t generally practice with you if you aren’t a good player or if they’ve not known you from before. And I asked her if she would play doubles with me, she accepted and it made me really happy. We lost our doubles but we had a great understanding. And now we have WTA points together. My Dad and my whole family really likes Sarah Pang.
Even after our match against each other. She texted me “Arthi, you played an amazing match and good luck to you for your next match.” I would really like to thank her for the post, Because of her post, I got a lot of exposure.
Note by Sarah for Arthi –
Four months after making the WTA singles rankings, the stars have aligned and I break onto the WTA doubles ranking today with a stellar win and a quarterfinal berth into the 25K World Tennis Tour in Bhopal, India 🙂 A great big thanks to my kickass partner Arthi Muniyan, and the twenty three souls who pushed me with funding to keep playing in this last quarter of 2019 Tour. I would and simply could not have done it without your support ♥️ Majulah 🇸🇬💪🏽🇸🇬
Q) Coincidentally, you played against her in the 1st qualifying round at Navi Mumbai last year. How was the feeling during the match?
You’d be shocked to know that before we got to know that we were going to play against each other. We had played a practice set the day before. Even her coach gave me some tips.
During the match, I told myself “Arthi, I know we are partners and you really like her but she’s your opponent in this match and you have to win.” In a match even if you lose your perspective a little, you end up losing a couple of crucial points. I was really nervous during the match, but I managed and pulled through. After winning the match, I was feeling very positive because I had just won a match in a $25,000. It’s a wonderful feeling. Recently, I’ve had a great run in AITA tournaments. I won the Chandigarh Tribune Cup and was the runner up in Jaipur. The feeling when the crowd cheers for you and supports you is something else entirely.
Q) What are your goals and aspirations for 2020 and beyond?
Everybody has goals and if they accomplish it. They don’t stop there, then they set a bigger goal. There is no ending for wishes and goals. What is the end goal? My goal is to be happy. My goal is to improve everyday. If I improve everyday, I’ll win a lot. If I win a lot, I’ll get a lot of trophies as well and trophies will bring me happiness. More practically, my goal is to play more tournaments abroad, and win more over there. I’m feeling very positive about 2020.
What an inspiring story. Very important to be happy. Thank you ITD for sharing