“I was in a dark place mentally” – Adil Kalyanpur opens up about his mental health struggles

Although mental health has been spoken of by top players such as Naomi Osaka, it’s still not talked of as much in the lower rungs of the game. “A lot of players don’t accept what they’re feeling”, says Adil, who had his own bout with mental health issues earlier this year. Adil speaks about the rough phase he went through, how he tried to divert his mind by finding hobbies, why players should accept the state they’re in in order to overcome it, and much more.

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

AK – Home tournaments are super important for the players. Many players earned their first points during the last 3 weeks of Futures, which will help them a lot in international tournaments. Moreover, just having the home court advantage, and a draw filled with Indians, gives everybody an opportunity to have an equal chance at competing. 

Q) You’re a social media star now – with your raps getting really popular. How do you manage between your tennis and music commitments?

AK – Definitely not a social media star! I just found this random passion for rapping during the lockdown and started sharing them online unknowing of what kind of reactions I would get. It’s more of a hobby and I’m obviously really appreciative that it’s done better than I expected.

However I only enjoy doing it in my free time. When it comes to tennis, there are only so many hours in a day where you can focus only on one thing. So it’s important to have balance. I see so many players who are just obsessed with “Tennis, Tennis, Tennis!” Or they spend all their free time on their phones. I wanted to avoid both and find a way to create that balance along with being productive. So I think the raps (and magic tricks) have really given me that. And indirectly, it’s allowed me enjoy the tennis part way more as well!

Q) You had signed up with Nensel Academy in Germany for training. What is up with that association? 

AK – It’s a really great academy and I definitely improved a lot while I was there. But I was struggling with mental issues to the point where I didn’t enjoy being on the court at all. So I ended up leaving in January and stopping tennis altogether. It wasn’t the academy but just my state of mind. It’s hard to improve if you don’t enjoy the process.

So after taking several weeks off, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to stay in India, be closer to my family and figure out something at home. Because above all the goals and ambitions a person may have, their mental health has got to be a priority.

Adil hits a forehand as Milos Galecic, fitness trainer from Nensel Academy, watches on

Q) Many people struggle with mental health issues but not many talk about it. You had opened up about your struggles with mental health earlier this year. Do you mind speaking about it a little bit? 

AK – You live the best life when you are happy – I think this is something everyone will agree with. We all probably have our down phases where we think to ourselves –

“What am I doing?”

“Where am I going in life?”

“What’s my backup plan?”

For me, that hit last November-December, when I felt completely out of it, I was doubting my career choice, not getting results, not happy with where I was… just not enjoying life in general.

I think I was on the verge of depression, I wouldn’t say I was deep into it. Most days, I just felt really low. I had a few mental breakdowns during some matches in Europe which I didn’t want to open up about then. I was finally able to accept where I was and be true to the people around me when I left Germany and quit playing tennis entirely. That’s when I started to really express to my family that I was in a dark place mentally and that I needed some kind of help.

I actually opened up about it on social media at some point, because I felt like a lot of players don’t accept what they’re feeling. They think that “It’s just a phase, and I’ll shake it off”. But I think the best way to get past that phase is to accept that you’re in it. Acceptance is not really embraced yet on the tennis circuit. 

However I ended up releasing my inner expressions through posts, rap, whatever I felt comfortable with and it instantly started taking weight off my shoulders. Especially when a few players came up to me and said – “Hey bro, I know what you’re going through cuz I feel the exact same way”. 

It was touching. I think (or atleast I hope) it started some kind of wave. One player even came up to me and said “I’m also struggling mentally, what should I do?”. I was like “woah listen I definitely don’t have the answers but I do know that we’re in this together.” 

Jeevan also recently spoke about his struggles on the circuit and I’m sure every player could relate. And I’m pretty certain it helped him in some way because literally a week later he won a title. Coincidence? I think not 🙂

Q) And you were diagnosed with appendicitis a couple of months back. How tough was it to recover from that phase?

AK – Well it wasn’t too bad luckily as it was a simple operation, but it did take several weeks to get back on court. 

I started working with Vishaal Uppal Sir recently – when I was going through my down phase and didn’t want to be on the court at all. He helped me a lot with my mental challenges – and I was finally able to enjoy being on the court again. So when I had this appendicitis setback, it didn’t really bother me, because I knew I would be back on court in a few weeks.

On the plus side, I was able to spend some quality time with my family and write a bunch of rap songs that I plan to release in 2022! 

Adil after the operation

Q) What are your plans for the next few months? What’s your schedule after the Indian Futures?

I plan to play a lot more tournaments. I honestly still feel really rusty – kind of like I’m starting from square 1 in tennis. I want to get as many matches in as I can, and I’m sure once I get a few wins under my belt things will start turning around. But for now I’m just enjoying the game – which is the most important thing. I’ll take it one day at a time!

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