Prajwal Dev: “2022 goal is to get into the Challengers”

S.D. Prajwal Dev is on the rise. The 26-year-old made his second final on the ITF circuit when he finished as the runner-up in the ITF $15,000 at Colombo. Seeded fifth, Prajwal lost in the finals to second seed Eric Vanshelboim. In the entire tournament, Prajwal did not drop a single set before making the finals. Placed at a career high ranking of No.679, Prajwal is currently in Jakarta to play the M15 event where he has drawn Australia’s Moerani Bouzige (World No.648) in his opening round match.

Earlier this year Prajwal made his maiden singles finals at the M15 in New Delhi where he lost to compatriot Sidharth Rawat in the finals. As of 8th August 2022, Prajwal is placed at a career high of World No. 679 in singles and is placed at World No.677 in doubles.

When Prajwal came back following an impressive run in Colombo, the Mysore talent spoke with Indian Tennis Daily’s Dr. Balraj Shukla in an exclusive interview.

Prajwal Dev in action

Q: So how did you get into tennis in the first place?

Basically my grandfather used to play tennis. That’s how i joined tennis. It was just for recreation. There was no thought of me to get into professional tennis. My coaches, Nagaraja sir and Raghuveer sir kind of, pushed my parents to let me play tournaments. So that’s how I got into tennis. 

Q: Growing up did you idolize someone in tennis? 

I mean I am a big fan of Rafa. I started playing tennis in 2005. That’s when Rafa was also peaking. And the way he played was very interesting for me to watch. He had a very different thought process compared to what the other players were doing at that time. 

Q: Sleeveless and buggy whip? 

(laughs) Yeah exactly. All those things caught my eye.

Q: So at that point you knew that Federer was the one dominating and this guy was here to stop him. 

Yeah, I knew! (chuckles). Even my grandfather was a big Federer fan.  Whenever he used to support Federer, I felt like supporting Nadal. 

Q: Oh that is so nice to have something like that within the family.

Yeah it was! That’s how I started playing tennis, started watching tennis. 

Q: In my house its the other way round. If I support someone they have to support that player!

Even my parents and my brother are Nadal fans. But then grandfather always supported Federer. 

Q: …and that’s the reason why everyone calls him Grandpa Federer.

(laughs) You never know he might come back!

Q: So tell us something about your support staff and how they have paved your path. 

When I was young I started playing with Nagaraj sir. But when I started training with Raghuveer sir that was when I started playing more tournaments. I started getting more attention from the coaches. To be honest I even started private coaching with Raghuveer sir.  That’s when I kind of really understood how I have to train. Before that it was just too basic. I was just going there playing in groups. But Raghuveer sir put me in that tournament training mode.

Then I did go to Bangalore to train under Arjun Gotham (Former World No.935) for some time and later with Prahlad Srinath (Former World No.310). I also trained at the Rohan Bopanna Tennis Academy in 2019 and 2020. And then to be honest for the last seven years I’ve been training by myself. I did train arbitrarily couple of years in between those seven years. But, mainly right now, since the last three years, I’ve been doing my own training. I’ve been doing my own fitness. I’ve been fixing up some training schedules with other players.

Like we have Suraj Prabodh (Former World No.650). We are from the same city, so we play together most of the time. We have a couple of juniors also. So that’s how I fix up and do my own sessions and fitness. My parents have also been very very supportive. One of the reasons for my success is because of them and the effort and time they’ve put day in and day out for me to play at this level right now. 

Q: I have to compliment you for the fact that you are keeping up your training regime and it’s stunning that you have a ranking jump of over 500 spots in the last seven years (#1294 in 2015 to #757 in 2022). I mean if you are training by yourself and you are doing these leaps, it’s amazing. 

Yeah, like I just feel more comfortable when I do things by myself. Probably in future I have to take somebody’s help, right. But right now, I’ve been training by myself and, it’s going good and let’s see till when I can keep up the same thing. 

Q: So what does your training regime look like?

Basically what I do is I start off with tennis in the morning. We start at 10:30 and play for 3 hours. I just play 1 long session. Sometimes I finish off my fitness schedule. Then I do my core strength in the evening. Some days I’ll just play a long session of tennis and I go to gym in the evening. 

Q: That’s pretty thorough. What time do you wake up then? 

I don’t really wake up that early, but it’s whatever it is. Whatever it is, at 10:30 am I am on court. 

Q: Because from 10:30 a.m. if you play for three hours then can you stand that noon heat? 

Probably in Chennai it will be difficult to train everyday. Even in Delhi probably. But in Mysore we have that luxury, like the weather is really good for us to train at that time. Because I train at the Mysore Tennis Club.

Q: What surface do you practice on? 

I train on hard court and my preferred surface is hard courts. To be honest, the Mysore Club has been really supportive to us. We always have that one court reserved for us. 

Q: That’s great. So you came back after a great run in Colombo. 

Yeah I was really happy about it. 

Q: How do you analyze your performance? 

To be really honest when I went to the tournament, I’d been struggling with some shoulder issues. It’s been bothering me for the last 2-3 weeks. Then I went to Colombo it did bother me in the first week. I won the doubles but I was always in medications.  Secondly I didn’t expect (to win) because I was not hundred percent fit. It was not hindering me with the painkiller. But as the week progressed I was happy that I was able to concentrate when it mattered. I did have a chance. I was up 6-1 3-4 and I had two break points. Just couldn’t convert those break points else it would have been different. 

Q: So now as a pro player you are constantly on the move to travel to different countries. I’m sure like someone who is up and coming in tennis would want to know how a budding player like yourself  catches up with the visa applications and other legal formalities. 

Yeah I mean as Indians it is very difficult for us. You have to plan everything in advance. Very few countries have arrival based on visa. So it is very important for us to plan the tournament properly well in advance. 

Q: Is there any support from AITA for this? 

I haven’t approached them to be really honest. We did approach ITD when we went to Thailand and the embassy in Thailand. They were really helpful. 

Q: When you were 17 or 18 years old you were ranked around 1300 at that time. Did you consider U.S. College Tennis?

I did consider because there were very few players of my age with ATP points. I got a lot of offers. But, at the end I didn’t take it because I felt at that time it was better for me to stay back in India train and go pro, without going to college. 

Q: Would you recommend your juniors to opt for college tennis?

I would definitely recommend college tennis. You might think oops I changed lanes. When you come back you are 22-23 years old. But you can still come back because by then you would have very good exposure and if you’re playing good, you have a lot of time to go pro. You can make it make it to the Challengers and make it to ATP. So if you ask me personally, I would definitely tell that person to go to college. 

Q: According to you, what are the biggest challenges a singles player in India faces? 

For me I think one should be very smart in choosing tournaments played on their preferred surface so that you can maximize your potential. For example, if you play a European, a proper clay courter on clay, unless you play well on clay it would be very difficult for you to beat those guys consistently. So that is one of the things and obviously you have to and you should be able to grind out for 3 hours in every match if you want to be a good player. Even your game should have a balance of all the shots if you want to be consistently beating good guys.

Q: Right. So 2022 is nearly coming to a close. Goals for the 2023 season? 

To be honest I haven’t really thought about anything about 2023. I want to finish 2022 as strong as possible. The end of the year goal is to get into Top 500 and start getting into Challengers consistently. That’s the goal. To get into the ATP Challenger circuit. 

Q: Of all the tournaments you have played so far which is your favorite and why? 

I would definitely pick Delhi because that was my first final and that was where I really got my breakthrough. It’s also one of the best centres to play in India. 

Q: Is there a tournament you aspire to win at a bigger stage? 

Right now the short term goal is to win the Bangalore challenger. Because I’ve been from from Karnataka state. 

Q: So let’s daydream a bit right now… At the tour level? 

(laughs) At the tour level it will definitely be Wimbledon. Because I like playing on fast courts. It suits my game style also.

Q: Rapid fire. Time to construct your dream player. 

Forehand: Rafa Nadal

Backhand: Novak Djokovc

Serve: John Isner

Return: Novak Djokovic

Slice: Roger Federer

Drop shot: Carlos Alcaraz

Wow! Lob: Andy Murray

Volley: Federer

Physique: Umm… Who’s the fittest!? I’ll go with Rafa. 

Seriously?

(laughs) OK. I’ll go with Djokovic. 

Mental: Rafa

If not a tennis player, what would you be doing? Civil services.  

Q: That was great. Thank you I really loved your story and I hope we get to talk more often frequently. 

Yeah, definitely sure. Thanks a lot.

Update: Prajwal is currently through to the second round of the singles draw at Jakarta M15. Australia’s Moerani Bouzigue lost 4-6 3-4 before retiring mid-match to hand Prajwal a win. Rishi Reddy is pairing up with Prajwal for the doubles draw in the same event.

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