It’s a Saturday afternoon in a somewhat wet and foggy Pune. Vaishnavi Adkar (VA), one of India’s top junior talents, has just lost the Girl’s Singles final of the J3 event to Japan’s Sara Saito. A day prior, Vaishnavi had agreed to a post-match interview with me. She was obviously a bit upset after the loss, so I offered to conduct the interview some other time. She said, “No! Let’s do it immediately.”

We head to the Player’s Lounge and start our interview. I was surprised by how upbeat she was once we started the conversation. Here is how the interview went –

About the author –

Abhijeet Dangat is the founder of Earnest Sports Management and is a law undergrad.

Abhijeet and Vaishnavi

Q: Tough loss today, Vaishnavi. How would you assess this week’s performance?

VA: Well, this is my third consecutive final in three weeks, and I felt pretty confident going in the final. I was feeling confident about my game. I started playing regularly after being out of action for eight months. But I was feeling great being on the court and playing matches again. I’m just very grateful for the results. 

Q: You lost to Shruti [Ahlawat] last week in Delhi. But you beat her here in Pune this week. What changes did you make to your game to beat her? 

VA: Last week was pretty close, so anyone could have won that match. Just one point here or there. So this week, I didn’t change anything. I just believed in myself. Believed in my game. I was confident playing her. I just went for it!

Q: As of current ITF Junior Rankings, you are ranked #4 in India. What does that mean to you? What are your ranking goals for the coming season?

VA: Well, that’s wonderful! Honestly, I had no idea about this. So it’s good to know. As far as ranking goals go, I would like to see myself in the Top 100 (of ITF Junior Rankings) by March next year. [Note: She is currently ranked #443].

Vaishnavi hitting a backhand

Q: Okay, let’s talk about your beginnings. At what age did you start playing tennis? When did you decide to take it up seriously?

VA: I started at age 6. At first, I used to play tennis just to gain some physical fitness. I didn’t do well in the U10 category. But in U12, I won my first tournament. After that, I was okay; I can do this! So yeah, around that time.

Q: How would you describe your playing style?

VA: I just love ripping the ball! As hard as I can! I would describe my style as an aggressive player. I don’t like waiting for opportunities. I just like to play it and I just go for the balls.

Q: Who were your tennis idols growing up?

VA: Well, Novak Djokovic has always been my favourite since I was kid. I love watching him play. I appreciate his attitude on the court. 

On the women’s side, Serena Williams. For her game style. I just love it! Super aggressive! That’s how it should be.

Q: Let’s talk about your coach, Mr Kedar Shah. When did he start training you? And how’s your journey with him been so far?

VA: I have been training with him since my U12 days. Since then we have progressed a lot. He has helped me throughout and even after the surgery. We did not give up at all. We were like we have to get back stronger. But we worked hard a lot. Of course his efforts and mine (have shown the results). 

Q: Okay, let’s talk about your success at Rendez-vous a Roland-Garros event. How was that experience?

VA: It was amazing! The tournament in Delhi, I played against India’s best U18 players. I was the last player accepted in the draw. I did not really have any expectations. In the first round only, I had a tough match up. I was like, let’s just go on court, finish this match and go home. But surprisingly, I won that match. And then I got more confidence. Later rounds also, I had tough matches. I just did not have the pressure of performing. 

Vaishnavi won the Ticket to Paris after beating India’s top U18 talents

Q: Unfortunately, you couldn’t go to Paris because of COVID-19. But maybe we will see you at the Junior Roland-Garros very soon. Now let’s talk about your immediate goals. Where do you see yourself professionally three to five years down the line?

VA: I will start playing the women’s circuit next year. I haven’t thought of anything beyond that.

RAPID FIRE:

QuestionAnswer
Favorite CityPune
Favorite SurfaceHard
Cheat MealPizza & Burger
Favorite TournamentUS Open
Favorite TV ShowBrooklyn Nine-Nine
Favorite non-Tennis personalityGrandfather. He is the coolest
Message for ITD and Indian Tennis fansKeep supporting us players
Most memorable tournament for youAll. I just love playing
Off court scheduleEat, sleep, and Netflix

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