In conversation with Samir Banerjee and Stanford Men’s Tennis Head Coach Paul Goldstein

We sat down with Samir Banerjee for a quick chat after his extremely close R32 loss to top 200 player Adrian Andreev (BUL, 192) 7-5 2-6 4-6 at the Stanford Challenger. It was his first ever ATP Challenger Tour match.

First of all, what are  your thoughts on today’s match ?  You went down twice in the first set, he broke back twice. Then you broke to go up six five. So what was your thought process during those games?

SB: I thought I was playing well. I think I came out a little nervous. I didn’t really go for my shots in the beginning. Obviously, it was my first challenger match, there’s some nerves. But as I settled into the match in the first set, I found my forehand a bit, and I returned  well. I broke there and then I went up 7-5. It was a great, great stretch of games. I thought I played well once I was free . However,  after winning the set, I got a little nervous again. I thought about outcome a little bit instead of keeping my head down and focusing. I  had break point in the first game, but I couldn’t convert. The big theme of the match was unconverted breakpoints, where  I had chances, especially in the third set. At three all and then four all.  I had break points in both games. So that was a little unfortunate.

How did you prepare for this tournament?  You played a futures in Shanghai and then a futures in Pittsburgh ?

SB:  Yeah,I’ve been playing. I played four weeks in a row then I took a week off and came here. At the end of the college season at NCAA individuals, I rolled my ankle and I was out for about three and a half to four weeks, so I had to build back up. The summer is such a crucial time especially for me because it’s the only long break we have from school. I really wanted to play pro events so it was important for me to play every week and get matches under my belt. The best thing to do when coming back was just play as many matches. Before this I was in New Jersey, I was preparing with my coach there. Ive been doing  some good preparation. I think I’m definitely  a lot better than I was when I first came back from the injury.  There’s definitely room for improvements.

Talking about today, what did you learn or notice about the level of tennis at an ATP Challenger. What were your takeaways?

SB:  The the margins are just very thin here. The opportunities don’t come and go. It’s just one point to make the difference. It just requires that extra level of focus and discipline, making that extra ball. My opponent  focused and buckled down at the right times when he was down. If I can add that kind of discipline to my game and that focus at the critical times, I can reach the same level. 

Could you talk about the tennis support that you’re getting at Stanford housing towards your pro ambitions? Paul Goldstein, the head coach at Stanford,  he’s been on the pro tour, top 60,  how is he helping you ?

SB: It’s been great. Paul is a  very good coach. He understands my game pretty well. He’s definitely been helping me with the tactical side of things, shot selection. Judging by when I came into school in the fall, I came off an injury, I was not playing great. I was not great with my confidence, I worked with him a lot. He helped me improve my game a lot for the Spring.  I think that the whole coaching staff  is very good. We had very good players on our team last year : Arthur,  Nishesh (Basavareddy), Max Basin – a lot of good guys. 

You were also the Pac-12 Freshman of the year. How was that experience? Can you talk a bit about that?

SB:  It was good to be recognized for having a good freshman campaign. I played pretty good in the dual match season. I think I clenched a  couple of  important matches. My Pac-12 record was pretty good. As the season went into stride, I found my game and I peaked at the right time

Are you planning on playing any more pro tournaments or focus mostly on college and play pro and between now and then ?

SB:  No, I’m playing. School doesn’t start until Mid-September. I believe I’m going to Tunisia after this. I’m just looking to have as many opportunities as possible and hopefully pick up some wins!

We also talked with Paul Goldstein, former ATP top 60 player and currently Stanford Men’s Tennis Head Coach about Samir Banerjee and Nishesh Basavareddy :

What are your thoughts on Nishesh and Samir’s futures in Men’s tennis ? 

PG: I’d like to say I’m fortunate and excited to have the opportunity to work with both Samir and Nishesh. Both of them have very promising futures in our sport. Nishesh has sometimes had some issues with his health, but once healthy, he’s been exceptional. He is very disciplined and has a very professional approach towards his tennis. He’s impressed me with his ability to manage everything going on in his life – tennis, social, his academics. I feel really strongly about his future in the sport. 

Samir is an exceptional talent – I would say his ceiling is exceptionally high. He’s incredibly capable. Areas of growth for him include maintaining consistency and discipline, that would translate to consistent competitive performance. When he’s at his best, he plays at the highest level – as he demonstrated by being the 2021 junior Wimbledon Champion. When he came in as a freshman, he had a little bit more of a transition period at Stanford, but once he got comfortable, he won some of the most important dual matches over the course of the year. He embraces the moment, not afraid of the moment. He really has a very high ceiling.

Talking about ceilings and their pro careers, Nishesh beat Steve Johnson a few weeks back, Samir was extremely competitive here (Stanford Challenger) – he very nearly took out a top 200 player, what do you think they need to work on in the next couple of years to get into the top tier of professional tennis  ?

PG: For Samir, the ability is there. He just needs to work on his approach, staying disciplined, maintaining consistency with respect to his performances. In his game, he’s got good power on his serve, the direction could be improved a little bit. The ability to come forward and finish at the net could be improved a little bit. Another key area for him – when the ball is out of the strike zone, being able to maintain good pace – minor things. By far – the most important thing would be to maintain a disciplined and consistent approach. 
For Nishesh, the most important thing goes back to his physical health. Nishesh is young, he just turned 18. Being able to dig himself out of corners is really important for him. 

How do you think both Nishesh and Samir can maintain physical conditioning and what can they do differently so that there’s better injury prevention ?

PG: That’s incumbent upon all of us – both those guys as well as our staff. Making sure that they are not only treating ailments or injuries when they happen but really doing all the rehabilitation work to prevent themselves from getting hurt. Once they have that, they need the discipline to do it every day. Day in and day out in order to give themselves the best chance to stay healthy. I have no doubt that they’re both capable of doing that. Both these guys have been huge parts of what we’re doing at Stanford. Absolutely critical members of our team. We’re very proud to be able to work with them and to have them be a part of the Stanford tennis community, really integral part of what we’re doing.

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