In choosing a path less travelled, very few fit the bill in Indian Tennis than Arantxa Andrady. After being a top-1000 player on the WTA Rankings, Arantxa chose to move on from playing tennis at just 24 yrs old. She took a rare path of moving to the Nordic region in Norway and gradually over the years has risen up the ranks to become one of the top coaches in Norway.
Arantxa`s career has been ably nurtured by the Norway Tennis Federation and Arantxa hopes to make a difference in the future in Norwegian Tennis.
Here is a peek into the journey of an Indian Female Coach who has established herself in the host city – Lillehammer
On your journey into Tennis
My name is Arantxa. The day I found out that I was named after a Tennis player, around the age of 8 or 9 – I started pestering my dad that I would like to play Tennis. My family was always sports oriented; I would play basketball and football with my dad and elder brother at any given opportunity.
When I was about 12, my brother got a scholarship to play football at a club in Delhi. While playing at the Siri Fort Complex my dad met one of the top tennis coaches in Delhi, Aditya Sachdeva and was convinced he would be the right fit for me. And that that’s how my tennis journey began. Later after completing my grade 12, I was offered a USA college scholarship but I did not accept as I was keen to pursue the pro path.
Was your family always into sports?
Around the year 1989/90 – Arantxa Sanchez Vicario won the French Open and she was all over the news. Dad really liked that name and so I was named Arantxa….
My family have always been involved in sports at different levels and continue to be huge sports enthusiasts. My dad was my motivator, my champion and constant travel companion up until I was eighteen.
When did you realise that you were good at this sport?
My dad knew from the very beginning seeing me play other sports that I had good hand-eye coordination, the required stamina and footwork. The moment I picked up the racket I really liked the emphasis on technique, training and practicing at a club/academy with other players and within a year I was completely sold on tennis.
You had a strong Junior ranking of 352. Any memories?
As a Junior player, I had the opportunity to play all over the world – Uzbekistan was a fun location. I have fond memories of the places I travelled to, the friendships I created and the amazing coaches I trained under. I started playing tennis late and so I had only a couple of years of Junior career as I was catching up with the other players.
You had a couple of titles in Womens. First with Kyra in Kolkata.
Kyra and I won the ITF title in Kolkata. Shivika, Kyra and I used to train with Srinath Prahlad. We all had a lot of fun travelling around for tournaments. We had all trained together while living in Bangalore for 9 months. I used to see them more than anyone in life.
Kyra and I had a similar thinking vis a vis doubles. While we did not have plans to play together but as we didn’t each have partners, we ended up joining hands that week. We played against Rishika and Rutuja in the finals.
ITF Doubles title with Ilze in Egypt
I do not remember how this partnership came about. I had already played 3 weeks in Egypt and I decided to extend as I felt that my game was getting better. The more matches you play, the sharper you feel.
I always play on the forehand side but I ended up playing on the backhand side for this partnership. I realised from that tournament that this was the right position for me in doubles. I usually love to be at the net but for some reason, I was so solid from the back in that week – we just clicked.
In the final, we beat the strong pairing of Anna Morgina and Yana Sizikova. Yana is ranked World No. 62 in doubles now. It was a better tournament than $15k but it was a really good experience for me.
Ilze Hattingh was a very good doubles player and her game style was kind of similar to Kyra and so it worked out for us.
On the WTA Tour debut with Shivika in Pune
It was my debut WTA Tour event. We got assigned at the eleventh hour into the doubles draw but unfortunately we did not play that well.
However, it gave us the exposure as players competing on the WTA tour. We got to meet World No. 7 Andrea Petkovic. Overall we had a good time at the event.
You took the off the beaten path to relocate to Norway!
It was not a path completely planned. My tennis career was drawing to a close as I continued to sustain many small injuries and I was not able to play for more than 10 weeks in a year which is absolutely not enough. I decided to quit as my ranking was very low.
After I moved on from playing pro tennis, I realised that I had to move out of Delhi and get out of my comfort zone. Going back to school/university seemed like a good challenge.
My aunt Monica, lives here in Norway, reached out and recommended that I come over here, try something new, join school again while staying with them. I decided why not – I packed my bags like how I do for a tournament incl. my tennis bag and moved to Norway. It was supposed to be for 4 years – 1 year of language and 3 years of college. I arrived here and fell in love with everything about this country – the people, nature, facilities and everything it had to offer.
During my first year at university, I met some people who got to know of my tennis background and requested me to coach the university team. My efforts were very successful, and it was recommended that I try it out as a job. I thought that I had left Tennis behind and coaching as a job was not on my mind. I had trained in Yoga before leaving India thinking that Yoga could be a good part time job as I had also been practicing it some years and was what I had planned on pursuing.
But fate had other plans for me…. I was offered the part-time job as the tennis coach and instantly fell in love with it and haven’t looked back since.
On your progression as a Tennis Coach
I am extremely grateful to the Norwegian Tennis Federation for nurturing my Tennis Coaching journey. I was a part-time tennis coach, did 20 hours a week side-by-side for 3 years while I was doing my bachelor’s degree. I was a good tennis player but now I know that tennis coaching is my calling.
Additionally, I started my education in tennis and went through the different levels of Coaching. The Norwegian tennis Federation has really focused on the development of coaches and their education. They have over the years got Kim Clijsters’ coach, Judy Murray and many experienced coaches and educators from all over the world for different conferences and courses. We receive tremendous exposure as coaches here in Norway.
After I graduated from university, I reached out to the Norwegian Tennis Federation and asked if there are opportunities for me here in Norway. In 2020, I took the head coach’s position at Lillehammer Lawn tennisklubb.
The club and the federation played a significant role in getting my visa, required permits and paperwork done – which is not an easy task in Norway.
How was it to be a person of Indian identity to make your mark there?
Once you are part of the community, the people really take care of you. I got really lucky that I got to know the nicest people at the most important stages of my life here. Everyone in the Tennis community have been very supportive at every stage.
I am very fortunate that I work with a club that is so supportive, and thanks to Casper Ruud – the tennis culture in the country is growing and we as a community in Lillehammer would like to grow and showcase the talent and opportunities outside Oslo / larger cities.
If I can make a difference to Tennis in Norway in any way, that would be amazing!
Talk about the infrastructure that you have at your club
Lillehammer is a very small town with a population of about 29,000. It is a full-on sports town with good scope for Tennis to grow. We have 3 indoor hard courts and 5 clay courts. We have a clubhouse and a mini Tennis court as well.
It is one of the oldest clubs in Norway. It had a strong tradition in the 1990s and even held an ATP event. Unfortunately, the club had a tough time after that and did not have any full-time coaches for a long time. The current board at the club have in the recent past focussed on reviving the tennis landscape by hiring a full-time coach and that is how I was brought on for this role. The club now has over 350 members.
On the growth of Female Tennis Coaches from India
There is a growing opportunity for women in India. It does, however, require education on the opportunities that are available for female tennis players to choose this path. Emphasis needs to be laid on educating the coaches as that will ultimately impact the ecosystem quality.
Shivika Burman is a prime example – she took up the role herself and has two academies that she runs in India now. We have Tanisha Rohrira in Bangalore , Namita Bal in Pune and then Sharmada Balu who are also coaching while playing.
Female representation is growing in the coaching community worldwide and I really wish India joins this movement.
|Hobbies||Exploring Restaurants and trying out various cuisines. Would love to try out other sports. I currently enjoy hiking.|
|Dream Opponent||2 players that I look up to – Arantxa Sachez Vicario and Kim Clijsters. I would not like to play against them but would like to practice against them|
|Fav Cuisine||Asian food. We have a good Japanese restaurant around in the town.|
|Fav Surface||Clay Court – I played well on Clay but I enjoy the Grass Courts too.|
|Song on repeat||Currently it is No Roots by Alice Merton|
|Dream travel destination||Prague, Amsterdam|
|Place that I have not been but would like to go to||Rome (and Vatican) and Paris|
|Best friends on tour||Sheethal Goutham, Shivika Burman, Ola Abou Zekry ( Egypt) and Emily Webley Smith (United Kingdom)|
|Best win||Doubles titles in Kolkata and Egypt|
|Loss that hurt you the most||My last match in Egypt. It was sad because I knew that it would be my last match if I lost.|