“Ankita wanted to play with me to have me learn things about playing at higher level. It was a dream” – Snehal Mane on the ITF Jodhpur final

Snehal Mane

With immense self-confidence & preparation, Snehal Mane, current India’s Doubles #6 has hit the right notes in India’s women tennis. In a free wheeling chat, on her 21st birthday, Snehal tell us more about her sport and how she has been managing with the lockdown amid covid 2019. 

Locked down at home, how do you generally spend your time?

My whole family members (5 of us) are here so it’s great. My dad is in business (facility management) but he must go to the office as he is managing the entire ambulances on 108 so at least he has to visit for two or three hours each day. In crisis times like this, he is doing an excellent work in ensuring medical facilities are intact in the times of need. My brother is here from Bangalore as well, so spending time with him is good. He is in Rifle shooting, and loves doing that. He was training in Gagan Narang academy in Bangalore till sometime back.

Catching up with cooking, Yoga & reading books. I like doing bit of cooking, especially now learning a few things from my mother. Helping my family in cleaning activities too specially when no helpers are around to help & support. Its good, as with these measures, we are getting to spend good family time together.

Also, I have been reading through Bhagwad Gita during my free times. Being fond of it since young, so the interest was always there since childhood. My grandfather was very fond of it and he always tried to influence us towards the best practices in the Gita. But after I came into tennis, plus the studies never allowed me to spend enough time reading it. So, it’s good, as I am able to fulfil my long outstanding wish.

Snehal with her family

How did you start your journey in tennis & what was the motivation behind it? Tell us more about it.

I started at the age of 10 and my father was very interested in tennis. He used to watch Steffi Graf & Sania Mirza on television and was very inspired by the sport. No one in my family in past has been in sport, so it was new for all of us. My father used to take me to the tennis courts nearby just to hit a few balls and that’s how I start at my journey around tennis. I was good in studies and had always dreamed to become a doctor one day. But seems god had some other plans. Once I won a local tournament (bakers’ basket), my father thought that a better coach is required to nurture my game. That’s how I met Hemant sir and it’s been over 10 years now, under his coaching. At the age of 14, I started playing in juniors ITF (Grade 5), and I was into the semi-finals in my first ever ITF tournament. So, then I decided to take this up professionally and at some point, internationally too.

Snehal during ITF Mauritius

How did you manage your travels at such an early age?

My mother use to company me during my travels. She has been with me throughout. In Guwahati, I was around 14 years, and that time I played my first ITF (my first international tournament) and I rushed through to semifinals there. Since then, the motivation has been high to play tennis at different levels.

Tell us about your early wins and how was the foray in professional tennis?

After that I started playing more, I won few more ITF tournaments in Junior circuit. I won the girls singles title and emerged runner up in Doubles event at the Petit Camp (Under 18, Grade 4&5). And I won doubles tournament in Mauritius Circuit, ending up highest junior international career ranking at 250. Those wins were really morale boosting for me. After that I got to play Junior grand slam at Australian open. Being a tennis player, it was a dream come true. Started playing more in ITF tournaments after that. Goal has been to keep playing & aim to play grand slam one day. Hemant sir helps a lot when it comes to shaping & planning things for us.

I am very thankful to Lakshya Foundation and Bharat Forge for beleving in me, sponsoring me & ensuring that I am able to play internationally without having to worry about other things. Grateful to them to take time out of their life to sponsor me. Their generosity is really to be appreciated. On top, I too felt very privileged and humbled to be associated with them and would like to express my heartfelt thanks to them. A lot of credit of who I am today, goes to them.

During her first ever Grand Slam in Australia

And Khelo India?

Recently was back in Guwahati again playing in Khelo India. It was resonating, as I was back to the town again after so many years. Happy that Maharashtra topped the table and did well. Mihika Yadav was my doubles partner and we won gold there. It was a great event actually.

Playing ITF Jodhpur, first 25k, with great players around and right in the finals. Elaborate us on the overall journey?

Playing with Ankita was great. She is the best player in India now & was a dream for me to play alongside her. Initially I was nervous in the beginning but as the game kept building up, the confidence was back. We improved our game round after round. Ankita wanted to play with me, as she wanted me to learn things about playing at higher level. We had good tuning & it was a great match altogether. She was on forehand side & I was on backhand side. I never thought that I can play that good at 25k level. It was my first 25k finals, we tried our best. We all were playing well, won the first set, but in the 2nd set we lost some crucial points and again in the super tie-brakes we lost some crucial points. We could have been tighter in the tie-braker perhaps, but then overall the experience for me was great. Playing with athletes like Rutuja, Ankita brings out the best in you. One mistake and you give your opponents a chance to come back. That was a great learning from this tournament. Hope I continue the momentum going forward. Organizers were good in Jodhpur. They hosted us so well. I love going in the history and the palaces we visited gave me that time to know & explore more of them.

ITF 15k in Nairobi, Kenya and runners-up in doubles. One of your better games?

It was my first ever senior ITF finals & very special indeed. It’s a great pairing I had with Sravya Shivani. We never thought of reaching finals, but the plan was to take match by match and execute. We met some great players in the tournament. Sravya played really well too and we gel well together. Having played with Ankita & Sravya in doubles now, gives me hope that I can do well in doubles internationally.

With Sravya Shivani – ITF Nairobi

Any other best moments of your tennis career.

It was in Asians Under 14 Circuit. I was Asia’s #2, in under 14 then. Won doubles back to back there in Malaysia. Won singles there & in the other I was the runner-up. I travelled with Radhika mam there & it was so motivating to be with her. She taught a lot on how to conduct confidently on & off the court. It was my first foreign tour, an international tournament and so pleasant in many senses. I have been lucky to get good starts everywhere, in junior as well as senior ITF.

On Identifying Partners in Doubles.

I am good at my backhand side, so I expect my partner to be good in forehand side. Understanding the communication, signs etc. is important in doubles. I played with Ankita for the first time, and we did well thanks to the trainings we did prior to the games. With Sravya, I have played many games, and we are very comfortable playing together.

Your plans for late 2020/21, post COVID-19.

Looking to play Tunisia & Turkey circuit 15k. Japan 25k, but not sure how it goes post COVID-19. China based tournaments will most likely be cancelled so looking more into the African circuit & hopefully they are COVID free by then.  Let’s see how the next 6 months go.

Tell us about your coach & other coaching facilities at PYC.

I am very close to Hemant sir. He makes us practice in groups so that we learn new things from each other and develop the competitiveness. Best part is that he makes us enjoy our games. He goes with the time and give us the freedom to express ourselves. He helps us in scheduling our matches, picking right tournaments, even sharing his wisdom with us on how to conduct ourselves on & off the court. The environment is so friendly with lot of positivity around.

Utsav sir & Gaurav Nijhon sir help us a lot in ensuring that the fitness & strength side of things are taken care of. No coaching facilities will come even closer to what we get here at PYC.

With Hemant Bendrey & Ankita Raina at the PYC, Pune

Rutuja Pataenge, our Physio really helped me with my wrist injury. For 2-3 months, I was out of the game but Rutuja helped me recover fast. Swati Chandrashekar helps us in diet programs & schedules. All of them have played a role in my successes, and I am really grateful to them.  

During workouts at PYC, Pune

Your thoughts about the competition & some players you really look up to?

Competition is good, and healthy. It helps in bringing the best in you. Ankita, Rutuja, Karman, Riya, Sowjanya they are all great in the sport & I do follow them closely. It helps me improving my game. They are very focused and determined which is the key thing to learn from them.  

Motivating factors in your life.

My father is my greatest motivation. He always works with a target in his mind and is very disciplined in achieving those. I also look up to Hemant sir, as he is my guru and due to his guidance only, I am able to play confidently. Above all, representing the country is the greatest motivation anyone can have.

Your favourite food and travel spot.

Love eating momos, hanging out with friends & Mauritius is my preferred tourist destination as I love beaches a lot. I love the greenery around the place, it’s so pristine.

Message to the readers about how to keep fitness going during COVID times.

People at time get too serious and stress themselves. It’s good to take it easy, keep it iterative, but more importantly make workouts as a daily routine. Coming to food, I will just recommend avoiding fried foods but occasionally enjoy having good food around you. Else it might just start playing in your minds.

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