On Saturday, 4 December 2021, 15-year-old Rushil Khosla (RK), who plays left-handed, won the ITF J3 Pune doubles title with Muni Ananth Mani. In the final, they defeated the Kazakh pair of Max Batyutenko and Artur Khairutdinov in a 10-point match tiebreaker. After the match, the lad from Delhi was approached by a fan for an autograph. Rushil said it was the first time he was asked to sign. He asked the fan, “Are you sure you want my autograph?” The fan said, “Yes! And get used to it.”
Rushil seemed shy in his interaction with the fan, but I found him bold and quite chatty when we sat down for the interview. Find out more about Rushil from our interview –
Q: Congrats, Rushil! Doubles Champion. Well done! You won the final in the match tiebreaker. How would you assess today’s performance?
RK: Thank you! Today’s performance was pretty good. In the first set, we were being a little passive. We were full of confidence in the second set and wanted to take the match to the match tiebreaker. We changed our strategy a little bit in the second set. We showed aggression. The crucial point was when we were 3-2 up while serving. It was a deuce, and I made a good volley. That changed the second set. We won that set 6-2. And in the match tiebreaker, we had a great lead from the beginning; we were 8-3 or 8-4 up. There are fewer chances that you can lose the match from there in that situation. [Note: They won the match tiebreaker 10-6.]
Q: Let’s talk about your overall season. You won your first ITF juniors singles title in Nairobi (Kenya). And three titles in doubles so far. What’s your favourite memory of 2021?
RK: My favourite memory of 2021 was travelling to Nairobi and competing with foreign players. The last time I competed with foreign players before this was in 2019 in an Asian U14 tournament in Kazakhstan. Then COVID-19 happened. It was a great time in Nairobi. I did not expect to get my first singles title there. That week I was playing so good. I couldn’t believe it.
Q: You are currently among India’s Top 10 juniors (U18). What does that mean to you? And what are your ranking goals for the coming season?
RK: Honestly speaking, I was not aware of that. It’s a good achievement. My goal was to break into the Top 300 of ITF rankings by the start of next year. (With my result this week in J3 Pune), I would have accomplished that by now. If not, I will make it next week (by playing in JB1 Pune). [Note: At the time of this interview, he was ranked #391].
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?
RK: I started when I was seven and a half. My sister also used to play tennis. At age 10, I started playing local tournaments in nearby clubs. That’s when it got serious.
Q: How would you describe your playing style?
RK: I would call myself an all-court player. I love to be at the net. People call me doubles specialist for that reason [smiles]. I love hitting the ball hard and keeping the rallies long. I can do everything.
Q: Who were your tennis idols growing up?
RK: That question is a bit complicated. It started with Nadal. For all lefties, at least 99% of players, it’s Nadal. It was the same for me. Then it was Djokovic because I loved his backhand. Then I was like, no, Verdasco’s forehand is huge. I want such a huge forehand. Then I was like, it’s fine. You can’t keep an idol. I want to be better than them. So I don’t have an idol (anymore).
Q. Can you please tell us a bit about your coach Aditya Sachdeva?
RK: He has been my coach for more than three years. It’s been great working with him, and I will continue working with him. We used to train in Delhi, where I enjoyed the personal sessions. Now we train in Chandigarh.
Q: What are your immediate goals? Where do you see yourself professionally three to five years down the line?
RK: I haven’t thought so far ahead. I am just focused on the coming week. But to answer your question, I would like to play on the ATP Tour by the time I turn 19.
Q: I am sure that will happen. Do you have a message for ITD followers and Indian tennis fans in general?
RK: I love you guys! The support is good. Whenever you guys post about me, I get many likes and (positive) comments. Thank you!
|Favourite Cities||Almaty, Pune and Leh|
|Favourite Surface||Clay and Hard|
|Cheat Meal||Waffles, pancakes and chole bhature|
|Favourite Tournament Played||ITF J4 Nairobi|
|Favourite Grand Slam||Roland-Garros|
|Favourite ATP Tournaments||Cincinnati and Doha|
|Favourite TV Show||Squid Game|
|Favourite Non-tennis Personalities||My friends and family|
|Off Court Schedule||Eat, chill and play cards or video games with friends|
Follow Rushil and other young players competing in ITF JB1 Pune this week on our Instagram here.