Arjun Kadhe is a self-confessed Rafan. I should have guessed that from the winning lawnmower move and a most vocal celebration when he and Alexander Erler won the challenger dubbed the Bengaluru Open 2 in February 2022. But more than in victory, Arjun displays shades of the Rafa attitude when playing. “Nadal is my all-time favourite. Used to be Andy Roddick but of course it’s been some time since he retired. He (Rafa) is such a legend – the attitude he has – it motivates us every day and even if we lose and we are disappointed, we look at him and want to try and be even 1% of what he is.”
I had the chance to catch up with him after the win against the duo featuring in-form Ramkumar Ramanathan who was himself having a quite a moment in doubles with a winning streak of 15-0 till the finals of the Bengaluru Open 2 and Saket Myneni – the duo that had won Bengaluru Open 1.
This was his second doubles title of the year after Forli. Introspecting at the trophy ceremony, he said, “I have been close many times, in the semis or in the finals, so I feel like it’s about time. It’s always been a test of patience and I am really happy that its coming (together). My job is to work hard and enjoy the match.”
He knew the finals were going to be difficult. Having taken the first set quite comfortably, there was no guarantee that victory was near. The second set went into a tie break which Ram and Saketh won after Arjun double faulted at 2-2. Onward it went into a super tiebreak. “Doubles is a funny sport”, he says, “you can play so many close matches but sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. We have to play with high energy and if you don’t play (with positivity) against such a good team who have won already, its difficult.” Arjun and his partner, Erler won the super tiebreak 10-7, with Arjun making an incredible return at 8-6 which torpedoed its way past his opponents.
What made the victory sweet? “I am really happy that the crowd is back. It’s a lot of fun to play in front of the crowd than an empty stadium. I heard my name a lot! I am really happy that we won three super tiebreaks in the quarters, semis and finals. I had a lot of energy on court.”
While he was seeing more success in doubles, I prodded him about singles game. Arjun had played at the ATP 250 in Pune and lost out to Joao Sousa (the eventual winner) after a very close match. “This has happened twice, he laughs, “I lost to Jiri Vesely the year he won and now Joao Sousa. So next time whoever I play in the first round, I am going to contact them and make a deal with them! If you beat me, you’re probably gonna win the title!” He has a sense of humour that keeps him motivated. He is disappointed after his singles and doubles loss in Bengaluru Open 1, but he isn’t downcast. “Obviously I want to win those matches – I dont want to just play well. These are much higher ranked players, so you have to take positives from this and even today – even though i lost, the score line doesn’t justify my effort. I had 7-8 breakpoints which I couldn’t convert and he converted three. Then things change very quickly. Doubles was very close against a good quality team.” He sighs. “This is tennis. You have to try and forget this and get back out and train hard tomorrow and there is one more week to go.”
As we were discussing his prospects and goals, he mentioned that for singles he did not have a set goal as yet. He says philosophically, “I just want to improve my rankings. I am playing well and want to keep playing. I haven’t been playing too much singles, but this gives me a lot of confidence. I have been working hard at the same time so it just a matter of playing more and getting a bit sharper. I am there physically and mentally with these guys and it’s a matter of time. Its anyone match in a tie break, so you can’t always control the outcome, but its important to get till there and be better every single day and keep learning from your mistakes. Obviously you want to play the biggest tournaments and I feel that while its important to keep big targets, its equally important to keep smaller targets for the year and I see for myself that I end up playing well when I have some targets set to achieve.”
These are words you often hear from Rafa and it is no wonder that Arjun is a fan. After this conversation, Arjun won two consecutive tournaments – singles in the ITF 15K in Bhopal and singles and doubles in the SKME ITF Open 15K in Bangalore. He was right – he was nearly there several times, but he today he is holding the winner’s trophy!