23 year old Pranav Kumar achieved one of the most significant milestones any men’s tennis player sets out to achieve – participate in an ATP Tour main draw match. Kumar, and one of his best friends and roommate, Adam Neff, received a wildcard into the doubles draw of the ATP 250 Dallas Open. They ran the seasoned doubles pairing of the Sabanov brothers close, eventually losing in a super tiebreak.
In this interview, Indian-American Kumar shares his thoughts on his ATP Tour debut, his Indian connection, love for Cricket, and much more –
Q) How do you feel after your ATP Tour debut? How was the experience?
PK – It was a pretty unbelievable experience. I just want to thank Dallas Open, Mr. Peter Lebedevs, and Mr. Grant Chen for giving us an unreal opportunity to play in a massive tournament and a great atmosphere. I played with one of my best friends and roommate, Adam Neff. We’ve been playing together for the last 9-10 months in college matches and have been doing pretty well for what we thought we could be doing.
The match here was fun, but it was weird also – in a way we were very happy and grateful to be able to play the match, but disappointed in the end because we had big chances to win. They are an unbelievable team, so it would have been unreal to get the win. But it was also very cool to get to play in front of home fans, the whole team, the support staff till 1 AM. Hopefully more opportunities will come through.
Q) Could you share a bit of background on how and when you started playing Tennis?
PK – I was born in The States. ButI actually lived in India for a couple of years and then moved back to The States, which is when I started playing Tennis. I played a lot of Cricket in the streets in India while I was there.
Q) Can you talk a bit more about your Indian roots? Have you ever visited India? How connected do you feel to India?
PK – I was born in Boston, USA. My sister was also born there. Around 2004, we moved back to India because all my family, cousins, etc are in India. I went to school at Gopalan, Whitefield in Bangalore for a couple of years. I loved it there. Both my parents were working. Unfortunately, we could not stay there for pretty long because at that time I had pretty bad asthma. So I was having issues every week because of the dust. So we had to move back to The States.
Both my parents were born in Madurai, they also met in Madurai. I have a lot of family in Chennai in Kodambakkam. I speak Tamil. I understand more than I speak. All my family is basically in India. So we usually do the weekly Whatsapp and Facetime calls and all that good stuff. I haven’t visited in a while which is disappointing cause I had a lot of tournaments. But I would say I am pretty connected. I have an OCI (Overseas Citizenship of India). I follow Indian Cricket all the time. I lived there so I always felt very connected.
Q) You did not play any ITF Juniors. Any particular reasons?
PK – To be honest, I wasn’t very good as a junior. I wasn’t good enough to go to those tournaments. Even if I did, it would be qualies and I would be missing school for playing one match, which I honestly didn’t think was worth it. So I used to play just the national tournaments. My goal that time was to just expose myself enough to be able to get into a good college, play tennis there. But more focused to get a good degree from a good university, obviously using tennis as the door to get in.
Honestly, I got very lucky to get into Texas A&M, it’s a great program and has always been Top 5 or Top 10. They have a track record of producing top players – Arthur (Rinderknech), Patrick Kypson, Jackson Withrow, Austin Krajicek. I always think I was very lucky to get there.
Q) Your experience of playing for Texas A&M and the SMU Mustangs. Top Indian Tennis player Rutuja Bhosale also played for Texas A&M. Do you know her?
PK – Yeah I have heard of her. But she actually graduated one year before I got there. So I never got to meet her unfortunately. She was playing pretty high, #1 or #2. I think they made the final of the NCAA one time. She was doing very well.
I did my undergrad in Computer Science at Texas. I always wanted to do well in school, it’s something my parents always wanted me to do. Learn as much as you can. So I did that and then playing with those great players, I got much better in college. We call it the ‘Red Shirt Year’, when you’re on the team but you don’t really play any matches. It’s a year of developing your game and developing physically. I spent a year developing. I did not play that many matches in those three years, but I got a lot better. I got a lot to thank for to my teammates and the coaches there – Steve Denton and Kevin O’Shea. They helped me develop so much. They gave me a chance to be a part of an unbelievable team.
Going into Grad school, I wanted to have a good degree, which SMU has. I am doing my Masters in Finance. But also I wanted to get to a place where I could play more and be on the lineup consistently. I am getting better here working with the coaches. There are many helpful around here.
Q) You’ve been following Indian Tennis Daily (ITD) for a while now. What are your thoughts on the initiative?
PK – I’ve been following you guys for a couple of years now. It’s very important to me to follow Indian tennis players around the world. It’s quite relatable. It is just awesome to see everyone around the world doing so well.
Yesterday I met Saketh (Myneni) and Yuki (Bhambri), my practice session was just after theirs. I chatted with him and he was super nice. He went to University of Alabama. He speaks Telegu, but I knew just Tamil (laughs).
Favorite Movie – Goodwill Hunting, 3 Idiots, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (I watch it once a month), Main Hoon Na (that scene where SRK realises Zayed is his brother and goes on top to save him, I used to pretend I’m him when I was 8 years old)
Favorite Actor – Hrithik Roshan
Dream Destination – Iceland
Favorite Tennis Player – Jannik Sinner
Favorite Indian Tennis Player – Sumit Nagal in singles. Rohan Bopanna & Saketh Myneni in doubles
Dream Tournament – Wimbledon and Australian Open
Dream Mixed Doubles Partner – Paula Badosa
Build your perfect tennis player –
Forehand – Carlos Alcaraz
Backhand – Novak Djokovic
Serve – John Isner
Return – Novak Djokovic
Volley – Rafa Nadal & Wesley Koolhof
Speed – Rafa Nadal