“Coming to NTC has changed the course of my career” – U18 National Champion Karan Singh

The 18 year old Karan Singh has literally burst onto the circuit this year without prior notice. Karan had played just a handful of ITF Juniors events coming into 2021. He claims that he hadn’t even heard about ITF Juniors until 2019. But being able to train at the newly formed National Tennis Centre (NTC) seems to have changed his life, as he will tell you.

Karan, along with a couple of other players such as Nishant Dabas and Ajay Malik, stay, eat, and train at the NTC in New Delhi, without any costs. Karan recently won the Under 18 Nationals crown, and then went on to beat the Men’s National Champion, Niki Poonacha, at the recently concluded ITF Futures event in Indore. He talks about his whereabouts before this year, what he is working on, his goals, plea for funds to travel abroad to play tournaments, the role of NTC, his idol Dominic Thiem, and much more.

Karan hitting a backhand

Q) Where were you? You played only a handful of ITF Juniors events. And you’ve suddenly burst onto the scene

I am sponsored by NTC (National Tennis Center) that is being run at DLTA in New Delhi. I joined in March and have been training there for the last 7-8 months. I have learnt new things there under Zeeshan Ali Sir and Arun Kumar Sir. I got to play with a lot of new players after coming here.

I got to know about ITF Juniors only in 2019. I played an event in Guwahati in November and made the finals. I played 3-4 events and I’m eligible to play Juniors for just one more month. So there’s not much point playing Juniors anymore. 

Q) Tell us a little about the NTC setup. What are the things you focus on?

It is a programme being run at DLTA in New Delhi with Zeeshan Ali Sir as the head coach and Arun Kumar Sir as Chief Coach. Our training starts at 8 AM in the morning and we play Tennis till 11.30 AM. Then we do fitness for an hour, eat lunch, and then come back to court for another round of fitness at 4.30 PM. Then you can play if you like.

I stay inside DLTA and I am fully sponsored for training, accommodation, and food by NTC. I am sponsored by Head for equipment. But I don’t have any sponsors for traveling, that is why I have played really less events outside India. 

The well built Karan during the U18 Nationals earlier this year

Q) How does it feel to have this series of Futures events in India? How important are home tournaments for Indian players?

It is a great opportunity for all of us. Players who aren’t financially sound are not able to go outside to play. So for them it’s an incredible chance to make points. The federation is supporting us a lot too. I won the U18 Nationals so I got wildcards for the events in Indore and New Delhi. I have been able to make my first ATP point in both singles and doubles thanks to this opportunity.

Q) You played in Egypt recently. How do you think your game stacks up against other professional players?

There were slow clay courts there and most of the players were clay courters who were playing from quite far back off the court. I learnt that you cannot win by hitting soft. I realised that I need to increase my racquet speed and acceleration, and hit the ball hard. I have been able to hit the ball better ever since I came from Egypt. So that’s helping me now. 

Q) What are your plans for the next few months?

I will need to discuss with Zeeshan Ali Sir. But I reckon December will be off and then I will try to play some Futures January onwards. But nothing is confirmed as yet, as I will need funds to play outside India.

Karan serving

Q) Which player do you look up to? What are your goals for the future?

My idol is Dominic Thiem. I like his strokes, especially his forehand. I love his attitude on court, and try to emulate him as well. My favorite surface is clay as well. 

Q) But your game seems more suited to fast hard courts….

No, my game holds really well on clay as well (laughs)

Q) You’ve got a strong serve and forehand. What are the things you need to improve upon?

I think the main work needs to go into the mental part. I have been losing matches where I have had lots and lots of chances. Even in the Fenesta Men’s Nationals, I was up 4-0 and then lost. I think there is some mental problem. I will seek advice from Zeeshan Sir on this to see if meditation or something else might help.

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