Image Credits: @prithvi
Prithvi Sekhar has fought many battles on the court. But those contests seems miniscule, considering the hurdles he has over come in life. Now he is certainly propelling himself to the heights of Indian tennis.
Never to give up one, Prithvi was hard-of-hearing from birth. But at the same time, he was born with an ability to play tennis. And though not financially well off, his parents always encouraged his talent.
Hailing from Chennai, Prithvi got into tennis through the encouragement of his parents. Prithvi says when he played his first tournament at the age of 10, he soon began to show more interest and discipline in learning the game and tennis became his passion and helped him come to terms with his deafness. At the same time, he made sure he did well in academics as well with a BTech and MBA degree.
The cultivation of his sporting prowess would eventually take him to 2017 Deaflympics, Samsun, Turkey, wining the mixed bronze with Jafreen Shaik and let everyone know that Prithvi has incredible talent and this was just a snapshot of what he is capable of.
After quarterfinals exit at the 2018 World Deaf Championship, the following year, the SRM University alumni crowned world champion in style after beating four seeded players without dropping a set as well as the doubles bronze.
Though already he ranked 5 and 7 in the ICSD’s Deaf Tennis World Ranking singles and doubles respectively, the 27-year-old has become a breakout star and there is no doubt that he will continue to rise from strength to strength, developing and learning along the way.
In tennis, simply seeing the ball is believed to be insufficient. Hearing the ball enables faster reactions — a crucial advantage in a sport where blazingly fast serves and powerful groundstrokes mean that even the tiniest fraction of a second matters. However, Prithvi has honed his skill to rely on his eyes alone and regularly competes in both the open category and the deaf circuit. He uses a hearing aid when he plays on the regular circuit.
One of Prithvi’s best traits is his ability to regain focus. His game is not just about knowing where to be, but anticipating movement, knowing when to back off, hit in, and regain momentum. His wand of a right hand gives him a variety of options: he changes the volume of the attack; he settles and he breaks the rhythm and win points. He exudes an air of confidence with his bold style and it will only improve further the more he plays at the highest level that demands precision and calmness under pressure.
Prithvi’s career trajectory has been trending positively since taking up tennis professionally. In just a few years’ time, he’s gone from being an unproven talent to a World Deaf Champion. Moving forward, expect Prithvi to keep stealing the headlines while taking his game to the next level. After all, constant progression and improvement have come to define him, both on and off the pitch.
How did you first get into Tennis? What are your first memories about the time when you knew this would be something you pursued?
My parents supported me and asked me to play an individual sport – a sport which I can pursue in future and most importantly enjoy playing. My first memory of Tennis as a sport that I would pursue is of when I played my first tournament at the age of 10. It was during this tournament, I realized this is something I enjoy playing and I will excel in.
I represented Tamil Nadu in School games and I secured the 2nd position in it. This boosted my confidence and I felt from within that Tennis is a sport I will pursue and will definitely do well in. So, it was during this phase I came across tournaments that are organized by AITA. They had a structure of tournaments for different categories. I started playing at both State and National those tournaments and eventually started winning in some of them.
We all know that you are successful in your sport. But the first win and the first trophy is always special. Do you remember your 1st success as a tennis player? If yes, how will you describe that moment?
My first success came in under-18 AITA tournament which was organized at Krishnan Tennis Centre, Chennai. I won the tournament. This win was really special as it made me feel proud, made me feel more confident and motivated.
Roger Federer was my idol when I started playing Tennis. The most inspiring quality of his is a calm and composed mind. He handles every situation during the match with ease. Also, he always fights to come back strongly and win. Also, his consistency and aggressiveness. It is a very unique combination about how a person can be calm and still be aggressive- not showing it through his expressions. I also love his serves, his volleys and his amazing backhand and drop shots. In my perspective, he is a complete tennis player.
Competing at such a young age, how did you juggle studies with sport?
Initially it was stressful. I was unsure about how am I going to manage my studies and sports and keep the balance. When I was young, I managed it well by going to school in the morning till mid noon. After school got over, I used to go directly to tennis court and started practicing. When exams were on the calendar, when school got over, I would directly go to tennis court and play for one hour after which I would and go home and study for my exams.
Fortunately, I was able to manage both quite efficiently even after my school got over and I went on to do my B.Tech and eventually MBA.
It was a great feeling. I was filled with excitement and pride as I had won the 1st medal in the World Deaf Tennis Championship (Gold in Singles) and (Bronze in Doubles) for the country. My parents, friends, colleagues and everyone who had supported me was immensely proud and filled with joy. Even Railway minister Piyush Goyal congratulated and tweeted about my achievement. I would like to thank to my parents, AISCD and everyone who supported and believed in me that I can become the World Champion.
Despite your young age, you seem to shoot well under pressure. Please tell us about your mental game.
I focus on each step – taking every round and preparing for them one by one. I don’t get intimidated by my opponents. I only concentrate on my game, believe in myself and go out to give my best. I try to keep myself calm and not get carried away. I try not to show my emotions to the opponent and stay calm like the sea. Even if I am a set down, I mentally prepare myself to keep going and pushing myself. Before the match I meditate for 5 mins. It makes me feel more relaxed and confident.
Tennis is a sport which requires extreme concentration and focus. If you lose even 0.01% of it, you miss the target. How do you manage to maintain both under pressure situations?
I try not to let the pressure get better of me. Even if I lose the match, I don’t let it affect my mental game. I move on to the next tournament/match more focused because I believe that I can perform even better.
My hardest hurdle is ITF and ATP. I constantly push myself to work harder and put more effort so that I can play more international tournaments. I really need to perform well in ITF, Challengers ATP tournaments.
If you could list three major influences in your tennis career, what three would that be?
The 3 Major Influences in Tennis Career are:
- My Parents and family are supporting and encouraging me a lot
- My school, college and office friends have been motivating me a lot
- My talent management firm - RouteMarket Media India Pvt.Ltd. for having my back off the court.
Winning the Gold and Bronze in Singles and Doubles in 2nd World Deaf Tennis Championship held at Turkey in 2019. I am most proud of representing the country and performing well in the Deaf tournaments.
The best Indian Tennis Player I would say is Leander Paes. He is a great doubles player, has won several grand slams, ATP tournaments and an Olympic medal as well. He is very good in Serve and volley. His reaction time and blocks are his strengths.
What sacrifices did you find the hardest in order to pursue your tennis career, and would you say that tennis has changed you as a person?
Yes, Tennis has definitely changed me as a person. It has made my self-belief concrete and made me push the limits to become the best version of myself.
My biggest failures have taught me to never give up, never underestimate, don’t overthink, don’t fall into pressure, never lose focus and never get intimidated by the opponent.
I am working hard to break into top 500 and to earn a grand slam. I am putting more effort to do well and improve my performance in tournaments. Currently, I am working on making my game stronger. Along with training, I am also concentrating on improving my fitness.
What are a few goals that you have set this year? What about personal goals you hope to achieve in the long-term?
In the long-term I want to break into top 600 in ATP rankings. I am putting more effort and working harder on my fitness. My primary goal for next year is to secure Gold Medal in the DEAFLYMPICS 2021, Brazil.
Dream Mixed Doubles Partner
What do you think about when you are serving?
I take my time to decide where I am going to serve. I always like to go for serve and then a Volley whenever I have good chance at it.
Imagine you were to be awarded the ATP Award for things done in your private life, what would you receive for it?
For starting a Tennis Academy for physically challenged individuals.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you on and off court?
Most Embarrassing thing for me on court is when I argued with the umpire. Off the court is whenever I don’t take the advice from my coach sometimes.
Federar or Nadal?