When I met Rushil Khosla (RK) for the first time six months ago in Pune, he was quite bold and chatty. A lot has changed in his life since. He’s had a lot of success on the court. Last week, we got on a call and Rushil told me how he feels about the recent Khelo India and Junior Davis Cup success and how he is handling all the attention he is receiving. Rushil remains a confident teen with good manners but seems wiser in his answers. Here’s our follow-up interview –
Q: Hi Rushil! Welcome back to ITD. Your life has changed a lot since we last spoke six months ago. Let me start by congratulating you on bagging a Silver medal at the 4th Khelo India Youth Games in Panchkula, Haryana! How do you assess that week?
RK: Thanks for having me again! That week went pretty well for me. Due to board exams, I did not get much time to prepare. But I trained in Panchkula with Aditya (Sachdeva) sir for a few days and I played well. About the final – it just wasn’t my day. I couldn’t do anything.
Q: But you still got a medal for your home state of Uttar Pradesh, so that’s great! Also, a couple of months ago, you led the Indian Junior Davis Cup Team to win the Asia-Oceania Qualifiers. Your contribution was massive as you won 4 out of 5 singles matches. How did that feel?
RK: That was a great feeling – a unique feeling I would say. Playing for the country is a great opportunity and honour. I played well in the final. It was a great opportunity to exhibit my talent. The win was a proud moment for me and my family.
Q: Tell me more about representing India.
RK: That feeling of representing India pushed me throughout the week. To get the win felt great. Nobody thought we would win it all until we reached the semifinals.
Q: Well done! You guys proved everyone wrong.
RK: I won’t necessarily say we proved everyone wrong. But we did improve their expectations from us.
Q: That’s a great perspective to have. Earlier this year, you played some ITF events in France and Spain. How was your experience playing on European clay?
RK: Travelling to Europe was great. Playing on slow red European clay was quite tough – I’m not going to lie. But it was a good decision to go there. Playing there helped me to play better in India in subsequent weeks. I learned a lot of new variations. And got to know about the real tennis that takes place there.
Q: You are calling it real tennis. Can you please elaborate on that?
RK: I’m calling it real tennis because of the types of balls they use, the types of players you compete with, and the types of courts and facilities they have are far better than what we have in India. So yeah, that’s where the real tennis happens.
Q: Ok, fair enough. What is that one thing you would say you took away from that Europe trip?
RK: I would say the motivation to work harder. The level there was insane. I know I’m getting closer and closer each day. The European players were better than me – I have to agree with that.
Q: So you want to raise your level after seeing those European players, correct?
RK: Yes! I mean that trip really was inspirational and gave me the motivation to work harder. I’m going to match that level.
Q: I’m sure you will. So you just got a blue tick verification on Instagram. Tell me about all the attention you are receiving. And how are you dealing with it as a 16-year-old? And what are your parents saying about it?
RK: I don’t remember my parents’ reaction when I got verified on Instagram but all my friends were hyped (laughs). The best part is – I did not apply for the verification. And I did not even realise that I got a blue tick. I was talking to a friend and he said to me, “Bro, you’ve got a blue tick!”. And I was like, “What?”. Then I received a lot of messages. And after the Junior Davis Cup victory, I got a lot of congratulatory messages and requests. On the lines of – “You’ve made our country proud.” and so on. A lot of positive vibes (smiles). It made me feel happy. Sometimes I open the chat, I feel happy looking at the good wishes.
Q: Alright, that’s great. Does that fuel your motivation?
RK: I would say it’s more like a mood lifter. What really fuels my motivation is playing in the Davis Cup and playing in front of a packed crowd.
Q: Brilliant answer! Any negative experiences on social media so far?
RK: I haven’t received any negative comments yet. So not really.
Q: That’s good. Now coming back to tennis, have you thought about starting to play men’s events yet? What does your schedule look like for the next few months?
RK: I’m getting prepared for the men’s events. I do believe it is the right time for me (for the transition). But I haven’t planned on playing any events yet. But yeah, the goal is to play men’s events – some Futures (ITF Men’s World Tennis Tour) events soon.
Q: I’m sure your parents and the coach are going to make this decision with you.
RK: That’s true. What I can tell you right now is my immediate focus is going to be playing some junior ITF events that are coming up. And then the Junior Davis Cup Finals in November in Turkey. It will be my first time there, so I’m excited about that!
Q: You definitely should be! We are excited for you! Another related question – Have you decided if you want to go pro or pursue college tennis in the United States?
RK: This decision hasn’t been made yet. We’ve talked about it once or twice. But we didn’t reach any conclusion. So no news on that front.
Q: Alright, I understand. One last question – When we spoke the last time you told me you don’t have tennis idols anymore. But I saw a recent interview of yours in which you said The Big 3 (Federer, Nadal and Djokovic) are your idols. You also mentioned Virat Kohli inspires you. Can you please explain that? What has changed?
RK: I don’t really idolise anyone. Those comments are from when I was younger. I used to idolise those players until I was 14 or 15. But then I stopped idolising tennis players completely. About Kohli, I like his hard work and mentality. His life is a good example to understand how life goes through bad phases but good times come back if you keep working hard. So yeah I take that from him – about continuously working hard.
Q: Rushil, I must say you don’t sound like a regular 16-year-old. I am seeing a big change here from six months ago. I like how confident you are but I also like how articulate you’ve become. You are becoming wiser and a better tennis player. So keep at it. We at ITD are here to support you.
RK: I should talk to you every day (laughs). You give me good vibes. I’ll surely take some time out soon and meet you now that you are in Delhi.
This interview was conducted on Tuesday, 21 June 2022 via Zoom.