“Life Outside the Lines” is a new weekly column in collaboration with one of India’s promising Gen Next player, Mukund Sasikumar. With candid honesty, he shares his thoughts from a player’s perspective.

Read the previous episodes here –

This is quite a general subject that anyone can relate to. And in today’s blog I am writing about a mantra which I personally learnt in my life a couple of years back and I think this way of thinking can help many athletes and people in life, including tennis players.

In my opinion. Dreaming is important. Yes, it tells you where you have to go or where you can go. But for me, what is more important is REALITY, where you are right now. Knowing where you are is more important and gives you a clearer picture of how far away you are from where you eventually want to go, which many fail at. Everyone knows where they want to go, how many grand slams they want to play. But do they know where they are now and how exactly far are they? Many players today live in a cloud. They fail to accept the brutal reality which I think is one of the primary reasons why in tennis, players fail to make the transition from juniors to futures and later on, especially if they are a good junior. In studies, only if you get selected in a campus interview in your final year the success is celebrated. Not if you pass 9th standard with a 100 marks or even UNI second year. But in tennis it’s different. Player’s parents and sometimes even coaches fail to realise the word STAGES in one’s tennis career and celebrate a junior nationals or a numero uno under 18 status too early. But in the end, it’s just one level or benchmark you have reached and you immediately need to step on to the next goal- expecting new challenges. Making junior world no 1 is in my opinion easier than making the top-100 and staying there in men’s. If a player makes world number 1 in ITF and says okay, stage 1 complete now wonder what’s in stage 2, then nothing like it. But if he says Stage 1 Complete and Stage 2 is half complete as I nailed stage 1, we might have a problem there.

One of the biggest challenges in life is to stay in the same reality you were before winning and after winning, or being a little bit successful. To still listen to your team even when you are at the peak of your performance and not say I know everything now. To still be open to learn and evolve in your game. Coming back to why successful juniors some of them struggle to make the jump to men’s is, along with many other reasons like funds, system, limited game etc., they might enter an illusion and block the mind that this is what tennis is and dream the men’s journey is also going to be similar. When they reach men’s and see what they thought or dreamt of is not the case, things start to go haywire. So always successful or unsuccessful, having a measure of HERE AND NOW and having a realistic mindset is healthy.

I am a big admirer of APJ Abdul Kalam sir. I have read his autobiography and I follow most of what he says. But once he said Don’t stop dreaming. I am not sure what he exactly meant by that and I feel some are taking it by literal meaning. Dreams make you work hard yes. But brutality makes you work harder. In other words, what psychologists call it action/Performance/process goals. It’s different if I say I’ll play Wimbledon one day vs I am 23 and I haven’t even played qualies. I think the latter gives me a better drive and determination to go forward. When I asked Rohan Bopanna one piece of advice for my birthday he simply said REMEMBER REALITY BEFORE OVERTHINKING. And that man has lived to it.

So ending it, this doesn’t apply in whole to everybody and doesn’t mean one stops dreaming. It’s something which we wake up to and which is the reason why we all picked up the sport. I am part of it. This blog is only for those who let dreams and vision slip over their reality which is in turn pointing them in the wrong direction. Every night you can dream about the sky but every now and then it’s always better to see are we moving upwards towards the sky…

Until next time,

Mukund Sasikumar

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