“I love ripping the ball as hard as I can.” – Young Vaishnavi Adkar

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

Abhijeet Dangat is a lawyer and writer who loves playing, watching and discussing tennis. He has lived in India, France and the United Kingdom and has travelled across the world, many times witnessing sports history being made.

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