Nishesh Basavareddy took some time to speak to Indian Tennis Daily after the twin title wins in Brazil which catapulted Nishesh into the top-25 of the ITF Junior Rankings.
You can read our previous detailed interview on Nishesh here: Indian-American boy making waves in World Junior Tennis
How would you describe your South American Series – what was your goal coming in?
This was my first time in Brazil but I had been in South America before in 2020. I had gone to play ITF Junior Events in Costa Rica and Dominican Republic just before COVID.
The overall goal from these events for me was to get some wins under my belt and see if I can make myself to the Junior Grand Slams in the summer. I am happy with how things progressed.
You have played about 17-18 matches over a span of 2 weeks. How are you physically, did you feel any niggles?
I have some soreness in my quads and lower body in general. At the end of the final, I was pretty fatigued and so glad that I was able to close it out in 2 sets.
The weather has been really hot here, especially compared to my hometown in the USA. Overall I am feeling pretty good physically which is a big positive for me.
You had a couple of 3 setters against Cooper Williams. 1 loss and 1 win. How do you describe those matches?
The match in Costa Rica was one of my first matches coming back against a player of that high quality. I was pretty happy with my performance overall. I had a couple of match points later in the second set which I couldn’t convert. It gave me confidence that overall I am back to playing at the level that I should be.
Here in Brazil, I had a great start with a scoreline of 60 and 31 up but then he started playing better and then later ended up having few match points at 53 40-15 on his serve in the final set. I just kept on fighting and I was able to pull it through.
The win was a big turning point for me as it gave me confidence that I can go through 3 sets and come out on top. Winning that match and making it to the semis also freed me up a bit and I continued on that momentum to this week.
Can you talk me through both your singles finals – your game plan and how you review the match
In the first week, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of how my nerves and body would feel. To my credit – I ended up playing really well, probably one of the cleanest matches that I have ever played. I didn’t make many unforced errors. My game plan coming into the match was to be aggressive but it is tough to execute that. The scoreline really surprised me.
This week the conditions suited me. I was feeling more comfortable. I started off well and then he started playing better in the 2nd set. It got a bit tight in the end but I was able to close it out.
Both the matches were definitely some of the best tennis that I have played.
From almost no rank to rank 25 now within 2 months. What’s the path forward from here and your tourney schedule?
I will play the Grade I events coming up in California. I will try to play one of the futures events before that in California. In April and May, it will be about training again and playing some of the futures events in the US. In the summer, I will be in Europe playing the Grand Slams.
Overall I am happy with my ranking now which will allow me entry into the Grand Slams. The focus will be on improving physically, improving my game and on playing the futures circuit to get more exposure to that level.
You had a meniscus surgery in May. Can you share more details on it?
Last year – I was getting ready to play in a UTR tourney in January 2021. I started feeling a bit of pain. I ended up playing that match against ATP Top-150 Stefan Kozlov. That was where it first started coming up – I did some rehab, did a few checkups but the doctors didn’t see anything on the MRI Scan.
I was doing rehab but I still continued to have pain – so I got another MRI scan done in April. The doctors noticed that the meniscus is partly torn again after my previous surgery in 2018.
I got surgery done in May and it was a tough 6-7 month recovery period again. It was tough because I was not sure what my level of tennis would be again. Luckily I was able to come back well with the support of all the tennis staff back home.
Overall the surgery and recovery cycle is tough but I was able to stay focused and positive and come back.
You played a one off tourney in Indian Wells against your Davis Cup partner Kyle Kang. Were you completely recovered by then?
As I had mentioned, I got the MRI done in January and the doctors did not find anything. So I was still trying to compete. I wasn’t sure why the pain wasn’t getting better. The doctors were thinking that there was nothing major physically wrong with me and that it was probably a case of a hamstring or something.
So I was testing out by playing this tourney. It was tough because I was struggling to move and I don’t like retiring mid-match and so ended up finishing that match.
After I went back home, I came to know that I tore my meniscus.
You had meniscus surgery in 2018 as well. Is there something persistent?
The doctors opine that it had probably never healed completely back in 2018. I maybe came back too fast but I did take a long time off back then as well. So they think that was the reason it got partially torn off again.
Now my surgeon thinks that it has completely healed. I still have to do rehab regularly to ensure that my right knee is at a similar level or somewhere closer to the left knee in terms of strength. Right now, I am feeling good and I hope it can continue that way.
You started off by playing a couple of doubles tourneys.
I was planning on playing both singles and doubles in Orange Bowl but I ended up not accepting the wild card in time for singles and so ended up playing only doubles.
It might have probably been a blessing in disguise because I am still not sure whether I was ready physically for this level back in December. So playing doubles and getting back into competitive doubles matchplay was a good thing.
Getting back into singles to start 2022 worked out but it wasn’t a plan of mine but it ended up working out that way.
Indian players generally struggle in terms of pro tour transition especially on the physical side. Has this been a focus area for you? What has been some of the work around this?
The physical aspect is a big thing in the men’s game. I am getting there in terms of my game and its probably closer to the pro tour than my physical level at the moment. I just have to continue working on my conditioning, lower and upper body strength and it just comes with hard work and putting in the time and effort in. Doing all the right things before the match in terms of the warm ups and after the match in terms of stretching and improving my flexibility. So doing all these small things which will pay off in the end.
This is my big area of focus for this year. Obviously I would want to continue playing tournaments and doing well but I also have the longer term focus and this is my focus for this year.
You and Samir Banerjee will both play for Stanford. How did that come about?
We both will be joining this September. I was looking at multiple colleges and did 4 official visits to Illinois, Texas, Stanford and Michigan. In the end, it was a bit tough and I was going back and forth before I chose Stanford, which was a good fit for me. I liked the coaching staff. All the guys in the team also are going with similar aspirations.
So overall I felt it was the best choice for me and I am excited to be there this fall. I wanted to choose a school that will let me continue to play tennis professionally and so Stanford was the best fit overall for me.
Detail on the coaching staff at Stanford
The head coach is Paul Goldstein. He was a former ATP Top-50 player. The second coach is Brandon Coupe, a former ATP Doubles ranked top-60 player. We also have a volunteer assistant coach, Horacio Matta, who has coached top ATP players in the past.
Overall the team is extremely good.
Can you shed light on your support staff?
I have been with Coach Bryan Smith for several years now. Then I also have Chad Stanley working with me. My physiotherapist Marcus. I also go to the USTA for training sometimes and everyone there is helping me.
Overall I have a good support staff and they take care of me to the best to let me keep improving and reach my goals.
Has Rajeev Ram been in contact as well?
Just before I went to Brazil, Rajeev Ram was back home as he was getting inducted into the High School Hall of Fame. He is a really nice guy and gives me a lot of tips. It was just really good to hit with him to understand the type of ball that the professionals play and also to observe the work he does off the court. He also congratulated me for my win in Brazil which was very nice of him.
He has been really doing well over the past few years and hopefully he can continue it and win big titles. He has been a great mentor for me.