Meet Soha Sadiq- the qualifier who made headlines in ITF Pune

Bengaluru girl Soha Sadiq made herself known when she stunned the top-seed Riya Bhatia after coming through the qualifiers in the ITF $25k event held in Pune last month.

In conversation with Sanketa Anand, she shares her story. Excerpts from the interview:-

(About the Author: Sanketa Anand – Director of a Tech firm in Singapore with a keen interest in Indian Tennis. Sanketa has been ITD’s face for Singapore / Maharashtra since inception)

Q) You created waves when you knocked out the top-seed Riya. Can you share your thoughts about the match?

Soha: I think she’s a very good player, very competitive. She was giving a fight until the end. I just tried to keep my focus on what my coaches taught me to do and be more confident and trust my game more. That helped me, just trusting my game.

Q) Any specific preparation you went through prior to that games?

Soha: I didn’t take her as the no.1 seed. I just took her as another match. I was just playing my stuff, more than thinking about my opponent.

Q) Any specific strength, you backed yourself with?

Soha: I tried to be clear of my what my strength was and tried to use it more. I was faster, because I was trying to use my strength all the time, which was my forehand.

Q) You had won AITA National Championship twice in the last two months. How was that experience?

Soha: It was good because, both were the first tournaments after COVID and it was really challenging mentally. But, our coach made sure we were prepared for it.

Q) Tell us more about your coach.

Soha: His name is Jorge Pinilla Hernandez. He’s from Columbia. I train in CSE Dravid-Padukone academy. In Dravid-Padukone academy, there is PBI [Peter Burwash International]. He’s one of the coaches there and he’s very dedicated. For the past year and a half, I have been playing with him and he’s completely changed me as a player.

Q) How much time do you normally give in practice, training?

Soha: We do 4-4.5 hrs of tennis and an hour of fitness and we make sure weekly twice we have recovery for sure.

Q) Talking about tennis, how did your eventual career start in tennis? When was the moment you thought that you will take it forward as a professional?

Soha: My dad always wanted me to be in sports, because he did not get that encouragement, when he was young. He just put me into tennis and I don’t know, tennis and me just clicked somewhere. From the first day I got into the court, I wanted to play tennis forever.

Q) You haven’t played of ITF event outside India. Any specific challenges that you face?

Soha: Definitely because we don’t have sponsors. Sponsor was a big issue and now that I have started getting sponsors, I’m planning this year to travel more and play more tournaments and see where I am.

Q) Does tournaments like this make a difference?

Soha: It does, because Indians we hardly have tournaments in India- four tournaments in a year , which is hardly enough. In China and Asia, you can see that the tournaments every week.

Q) You mentioned about training is PBI CSE academy. Can you share your overall experience with the academy and the facilities.

Soha: I think Dravid-Padukone academy has every sport over there. They have football, they have cricket which is run by Dravid, badminton which is run by Prakash sir. There is shooting. There are best athletes of India in particular sports . When you are with an athlete, you are with the best athletes all the time and the coaches are the best coaches it’s just great ambience. There is everything for an athlete under one roof. They have training, they have rehab, they have prehab, they have world-class fitness equipments which I have never seen anywhere in India. I think it’s the best I have ever seen in India.

Q) You have scholarship from the Bindra foundation. How did you manage your financial constraints, taking the game up professionally?

Soha: It’s very hard. But now in PBI, they are actually helping me out a little with scholarship- Abhinav Bindra scholarship. A few sponsors have come forward like MM homes, to sponsor me for the tournaments. They are sponsors who sponsor me for my food and rehab , which is very good. Travel is also covered by the foundation. It gives me more confidence that I can go into any tournament and do well.

Q) Can you talk about your strengths in particular? How did you build such strengths

Soha:  I actually knew I had those somewhere. Actually, my coach made me get that confidence and make it clear as to what my game is. That was a big thing for me- to be clear of what kind of a player I am.

Q) Your training regime? Any specific activities that you would like to mention in the academy which you think is one of the best?

In the academy you have rehab, prehab-world class equipments with devalve for athletes , which is very rare. We don’t see it anywhere in India I think. Our coaches made it compulsory to have 2 days in recovery. Recovery consists of full-body icing, full-body compression, stretches and releases. As athletes it’s not healthy that we train so many hours, put our body through so much stress.Our body is like our weapon.

Q) Your goals for 2021? The kind of tournaments that you are looking forward to, in the next few months?

I have a very realistic goal that I have set. I would like to see myself, by the end of this year in top-500 in the world. I might travel to Egypt and Indonesia, play a lot of tournaments there, because there are a lot of tournaments every week there.

HobbiesI like to read. My favourite author is Sidney Sheldon.
Favourite food itemI don’t mind eating anything. Something that I really really like is ice-cream, but I can’t eat it often. My nutritionist has given me one day per week [for cheat meal]. But after doing so much hardwork, when we go for the cheatmeal, we don’t actually feel like going in for it.
Favourite Tourney amongst the ones you have played so farThis [ITF $25K Pune] tournament was a big confidence booster and showed me what my level is and where I stand. So, this was very good.
Favourite starZac Efron
Favourite travel destinationIt’s definitely Switzerland and Paris
A place that you haven’t been to, but would like to visitSwitzerland and Paris
Biggest win of your career so farI think this match [against Riya Bhati] gave me a lot of recognition as a player
A loss that hurt you the most and whyI think the one I played today [against Vaidehi Chaudhari]. Because I knew that I had it in me to win.
If not Tennis, alternate career trackCriminal Psychology. I watch a lot of series like Criminal Mind.

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