Niki and Rithvik winners ITF M15 New Delhi, 2022
Niki Kalyanda Poonacha won fourth ITF Doubles Title of the year, alongside Rithvik Choudary Bollipalli, beating Vishnu Vardhan/Nitin Kumar Sinha with a score line of 77-64 6-2 at RK Khanna Tennis Stadium, New Delhi.
In an on-court conversation after winning the Doubles Title, Niki shares his thoughts on his performance in the tournament, partnership with Rithvik, new coaching team and more.
Thoughts on the doubles final today
It was a very tough match; the first set was really really close. We were a breakup but then Vishnu (Vishnu Vardhan) pulled some unbelievable returns, first-two returns and then even Nitin (Nitin Kumar Sinha) got the same excitement as he got up and they broke us. But then we held our cool, we knew what we’re doing, and the tie-break turned out to be comfortable for us. In the second set, we didn’t let go, we wanted to finish well so we kept press the gas. So yeah, it was a good match, I would say one of the good matches playing against one of the senior players and a well-known player is always a joy
Vishnu, Nitin, Rithvik and Niki during the finals
Thoughts on Singles Semi-final against Digvijay. You seemed to have the match under your control till end of second set
Before going to the match, I had a plan like how to play Digvijay. And then I was cruising with a good first set 6-1, I played unbelievable game 1-0 and made it 2-0. But after that, I would say maybe I started doing little bit differently and went off-track of what I’m supposed to play tactical-wise. After which, Digvijay got confident, and he started coming back.
Overall, it was a good match, I showed my level but I’m not happy of course. I would say that he (Digvijay) survived. It was my turn last year in the Nationals championship final to survive and he survived today. It was a good match, he (Digvijay) didn’t let go, kept on trying and everything. But yeah, it was from my racket he (Digvijay) didn’t do anything special; I just gave away the win.
There was lot of positives because this is my first semis of the year. Last almost 13 weeks, I couldn’t cross the quarterfinals and I started training with a new coach and it’s really going great now.
You mentioned about your new coach. Can you please share more details about it?
So, I have two coaches, actually they are a team of three. Borna Bikic (Croatia), Serinho Wijdenbosch (Netherlands) and Bhuvana Kalva (Hyderabad). They are working with different players, and I got an opportunity to play with them and we started training since April. It’s been a marvellous journey; just been 6 months and I have improved so much.
Borna has a bigger background; he was the coach of Former World No.4 Jelena Dokic. Serinho is into coaching for a decade now and Bhuvana has just started. So so, Borna plans the training, and everyone executes it. The base would be either Croatia or Slovakia depending on the schedule.
All the three coaches travel with you?
Yes, Borna and Serinho is travelling with me for most of the tournaments I play, and Bhuvana will also start travelling with us from now.
Niki and Rithvik with Bhuvana, Serinho, Borna and Boris (From left)
You played 14 events in Monastir – is Tunisia like your second home now?
No, definitely not (laughs). But yeah, I like playing there, it just one place where we play tennis and then I can take break. Specially, I have coach and team around me so the training, fitness is taken care of. So, I was there for 18 weeks and took breaks in-between to rest and improve.
Three titles in the last 4 weeks – You and Rithvik are having a dream run in doubles. How do you view this partnership?
Rithvik is a very good player, unbelievable hands and have a very good serve. And importantly, he is willing to work, and he is also a part of the same coaching team.
As of now, we’re gonna play three more weeks here (Indore, Mumbai and Bhilai) and then at the end of the year will sit together and decide for next season.
We have several Indians specializing and making it big in doubles. Is that a possibility that you are considering given your big game?
Yeah, it could be. But I’m not going to say complete focus on Doubles. I’m not gonna prioritise one and stop playing the other. The doubles is going really well and looks a bit faster than singles as of now; if I get to play challenger level with doubles I’ll go ahead with it and probably play singles whenever possible.
How is your schedule like for the rest of the season?
I’ll be playing Indore, Mumbai and Bhilai. After that, PTL, TPL and then there is UTR coming up. I’m not yet sure of playing UTR and I might decide to just train and prepare for next season.
Some Rapid fire now
|Favourite cuisine||South Indian|
|Favourite travel destination||Croatia|
|A place you haven’t been to but would love to visit||Switzerland|
|Favourite tourney from all your tourneys so far||Every tournament in Delhi|
|A loss that hurt you the most||Singles QF (Tunisia F39)|
|If not tennis, what would be your career||Football|
|The GOAT in Tennis for you||Roger Federer|
|Favourite non-Tennis sport||Football|