At the end of the 2021 season, Anirudh Chandrasekar took a conscious decision to focus on doubles. That move has paid rich dividends as the southpaw from Chennai has managed to climb up from 644 to below 330 in the ATP Rankings in just six months.
On the back of winning his maiden title at the ITF $25K level in Belgium, Anirudh took time out to talk about his improved doubles performances, his partnership with veteran Vijay Sundar Prashanth (VSP), the role of his brother in his career, his future goals, and much more. Excerpts below:
Q) Could you tell us a little about your title run at the Belgium $25K ITF event recently
Actually VSP was off for two weeks as he was in India for two weeks to get his Schengen visa renewed. So I was playing with different partners for those two weeks and he was training in India. Then all of a sudden he came to Paris and we decided to play the $25K event in Belgium because we didn’t get into any of the ATP Challenger events that week.
We had many options to play, as there were $25K events in France, Belgium, and Switzerland, but we chose Belgium. We were actually confident going into the tournament since we have been playing a lot together. We knew exactly what to expect from ourselves and we were not ready to settle for anything less.
It was a really good week in terms of performance. But we were really fortunate in the 2nd round because we were a set down and it was on serve in the 2nd set, and the opponent injured himself and he had to concede. So we got pretty lucky there. From then on, we were just focused and it was a solid week for us.
Q) How did your partnership with VSP come about?
The first time I partnered VSP was in 2019 in China. So we played two weeks together there and we made one $15K final. We played two more tournaments in China later that year, and won one and lost in the finals of the other one. So we were always a good partnership. I was really comfortable playing with him, and him being an experienced player always helped me.
Actually in August 2021, I was in Europe. And he’s based out of London. So for him travelling to Europe isn’t difficult. We decided to play a few Challengers together. But at that time I was still contemplating between singles and doubles, and wasn’t really training for doubles. It was completely random, we just spoke, and he was okay to play a few doubles here and there. It was on and off last year, but at the start of this year we decided to play a full season together and see how it goes.
Q) You seem to have prioritised doubles over singles. How and when did you take this decision?
Do you feel focusing on just doubles has helped your doubles game/ranking?
Yes, definitely it’s helped my game. I am a lot more free now. I actually made this switch at the end of last year as my doubles ranking was higher. I have always wanted to play higher level tournaments but I couldn’t do that because of singles as well. So I had to keep playing $15K Futures. I got a feel of the European Challenger circuit last year, and felt that I definitely belong here.
I always had a thing for doubles. Before VSP, I partnered my brother for over 2 years. We have made around 10 Futures finals together but we hadn’t won a single title. So I always did well in doubles, and always had the belief that I could do well in doubles. So I had to make the decision saying I’ll have to stop singles and if I focus on doubles, I can do something here.
Q) You have been trying to mix in ATP Challenger events with the Futures lately. How do you plan your schedule? How tough is it with respect to figuring out cutoffs/visas/etc?
I am really fortunate to have a long term Schengen and US visa, so scheduling tournaments in Europe and US has not been that big of a challenge for me. Coming to choosing between Challengers and $25K Futures, we always prioritise playing Challengers, as it’s a higher level event. If we don’t get into the Challengers, we go for a $25K Futures. Because for the $25K’s the sign in is on Monday, and you can just go and sign in. With our ranking, we always tend to make $25K cutoffs.
Being in Europe is a huge advantage as there are plenty of tournaments week in and week out and the countries are really well connected. It’s almost like taking a train from Hyderabad to Chennai (laughs).
Q) You’ve now got a flavor of Challenger Doubles tennis. What do you think is the difference in level? And how do you plan to improve and get to that level?
Personally, I’m starting to win a couple of rounds or so in Challengers, so I’m getting into the groove. I would say it is all about playing tournaments and seeing how it goes. Game-wise, I definitely feel like I belong here at this level. We have capacity to win Challengers in the near future. It’s about going with the flow. We made the semis recently and lost from match point up. So we could have made a Challenger final right way. Players at the Challengers are of pretty much the same level.
Q) You spent some time in Europe playing club tennis. How did that come about and how has that helped you?
Club tennis was completely out of the blue for me. I had been trying to play club matches for the last three years. Last year I was playing a tournament in France when my friend Arnav (Alok Goel) from Thirty40, a tennis consulting group, got in touch with me. He called me saying that a club needs me for one match and he insisted I go there as it would help me with the future.
I had no second thoughts and I just went for it. I played a match for them and I immediately made a connection and they signed me up for the whole season (for later this year). It’s actually good because it’s only on the weekends, so it does not hamper my regular schedule. And you get to make some money to help you sustain in Europe with your travel, etc. If you play a singles and a doubles match for a club, you’re already making more money than you do by playing in a Futures.
Q) Your brother, PC Vignesh, was a prolific player in his time. And now he’s traveling with you as your coach. Can you talk a bit about this association?
My main reason for me to start playing tennis is him. He was a really good player in his time. I just got inspired by him and picked up a tennis racket. He has been a major part of my tennis career. Around 2014, he had a major shoulder injury and he had to get a surgery. But he couldn’t get the surgery because it was complicated. That is when he sort of decided to take it easy in his career and focus on mine. And he always had a thing for coaching.
The amount of effort he puts into coaching is immense. You can clearly see how passionate he is. He also likes traveling to tournaments with me. All throughout the Juniors and Pro Circuit, he was there with me. He was positive about my switch to doubles as well. He is doing everything possible to help me out. He helps the both of us, VSP and myself, since we’re playing as a team.
Q) You seem to be a big Man United fan. Can you talk a bit about that?
2012 is when I started following Manchester United. I was a huge admirer of Robin van Persie. He used to play at Arsenal at the time. Once he made the switch to United, that is when I started following them full time. My brother and VSP are huge United fans as well. So it was easy for me to know the team really well. I try not to miss a single match.
I have always wanted to go and watch a match at Old Trafford. And this year, I was fortunate enough to be able to do that. I literally had goosebumps when I entered the stadium. It was amazing!
Q) What are some of the short terms and long term goals you have set for yourself?
To be honest, my initial target for this year was ATP Top 350. But I have cracked Top 330 already in July after our win in Belgium. So I have to set new goals for myself. My immediate target is to play a Grand Slam by mid next year. I would have to be around 80-90 in the ATP Rankings for that. My short term target for this year is to crack Top 250.
And I’ve always wanted to play for India and it is a major goal for me to make the Davis Cup team. The 2024 Olympics is also coming up, so I would say that is my long term target.
RAPID FIRE –
|Favorite Movie||The Avengers – First Part|
|Favorite Song||I Ain’t Worried by One Republic|
|Dream Destination||Mykonos, Greece|
|Dream Opponents||Bryan Brothers or Leander/Mahesh, but they’re retired|
Current team – Mektic/Pavic
|Tennis Idol (Global and Indian)||Rafa Nadal and my brother PC Vignesh|