Sharmada Balu made her comeback after a month at the recently concluded UTR tournament in New Delhi. She had a dream run at the Gujarat National Games, where she managed to bag medals in all the four events she participated in but unfortunately twisted her ankle on the finals day. Sharmada is currently playing the futures in Kenya and on the first week of the tournament she reached Quarters in both singles and doubles event.
We had a chance to talk to Sharmada at the time of the UTR tournament and get her views on the season and other interesting topics. Below are the excerpts from the conversation :
Q) We are into the last few weeks of the year. How do you view this season overall ?
SB : The overall season I would say it started off alright, I had a good run in the beginning of my trip to the States. I picked up some points played really good matches and I was feeling good about it. Towards the end I lost couple of close matches but still I feel like I am up there, I just need to play couple of more tournaments and pump up the rankings a bit higher. I think the best experience so far was definitely playing the Chennai Open. To see the level that I am playing at and where the other guys are playing and it definitely gives me a clearer structure to what I need to do to get there. So I think that it has been a pretty good year infact and it is still not yet over there’s still a couple more weeks, I have been training really hard and really want to finish this year strong. So I would say that it’s been pretty good so far but there’s scope for it to get better.
Q) Injury on the finals day, but you had an amazing Nationals Games winning 4 medals. How was the experience playing there, like how it was organized (since it happened after 7 years) and the courts ?
SB : National Games was definitely an experience to remember, it was really memorable. I played 4 events and I secured medals in all 4 events. And yeah it was really unfortunate that I fell down and twisted my ankle on the finals day. I still tried to play though but I really could not. It took me long, and now my ankle is healed and I am playing. So it took me solid 3-3.5 weeks to rest to get the ankle okay. So that was quite disappointing but I think it was really good, the team atmosphere was good you give your heart out regardless in each match but when your teammates are around you just get that extra energy, it’s a different feeling I really enjoy that. And I think the organizing was really good and everyone was surprised by how well organized it was and everyone give their best like that what I would say from the players to the organizers, supervisors, referees, ball kids everyone just wanted to do their best. So I think it was a huge success and the courts were really good, it was a beautiful venue the Sabarmati River was right alongside the courts, so nothing to complain to be honest about National Games it was very beautiful and memorable event for me apart from twisting my ankle.
Q) AITA has announced organizing 21 Pro tournaments till March next year including 9 ITF women’s event. And India will also be hosting the first ever ITF 40K Series in January. How much does it help players to get home tournaments like these with respect to rankings and also financially ?
SB : Yeah I actually saw the announcement on ITD and it’s really exciting and extremely important for us because you know we don’t have to travel outside India and it helps us financially so much. And specially all of the Indian players can take advantage of this and get our rankings up which ideally would have been little bit difficult if we have to travel outside and get it done. So I think this is great and really good for Indian Tennis and yeah I am really looking forward to that and see how it goes. The 40K is also a really good addition and I am excited to see how that gonna turn out.
Q) Thoughts on the UTR tournament. How will this help the players specially youngsters?
SB : Well this was my first UTR so far and it’s been pretty good. To be honest for me personally it was no brainer because this was my first tournament after hurting my ankle and it was good week for me to test it out and see where I am before I start competing internationally again. And yeah you get like guaranteed set of matches and the prize money is really good, and it’s evenly distributed for each round or position i guess so this looks promising to be honest and would help a lot of youngsters as it gives you a good financial assistance and you go back with a lot of matches so this could be really promising.
Q) What are your goals for the next season ?
SB : So my goals for next year is to definitely break into the top 200 in doubles and see how far I can go in singles. I think I am on the right track and keep myself injury free and just find a way to travel and play as many tournaments as I can to make sure I get up there cause I feel like it’s definitely achievable and I gonna give my best to get there.