Image Credits: @sonashebhatnagar
Though she is still just 20-years-old, Sonashe Bhatnagar has exhibited wonderful all-around traits for a tennis player.
The Bangalorean who was born in March 2000 developed her passion for tennis since she was 5 years old but it was her father Ashis Bhatnagar who triggered Sonashe’s love for the sport when he took her to a tennis club. It all started as a week fun course until when she was 14 years old and decided to play tennis full-time and discontinue regular schooling.
As a very typical modern player, Sonashe has made a name for herself with her good and effective performance recently winning the 1 lakh doubles title in Bangalore. She reached the final of a national tournament in the Netherlands, before securing semi-final spot in the ITF Women's Juniors.
When it comes to playing, she is blessed with a solid dose of speed and agility that allows her to go head-to-head with just about any player and give a valiant show. Her best trait is her forehand short-cross, as she was able to hit with ease on occasions.
At only 20 years of age, the REVA University student has a way to go before she can play to her full potential. Most of her weaknesses are aspects of her game that she can very easily correct with age and experience.
You are very young and have quite a few titles under your belt, and I am sure it must have been a quite whirlwind journey, so tell us about how did you first get into Tennis? What are your first memories about the time when you knew this would be something you pursued?
I got into tennis when I was 5. My father initiated me into quite a few sports but I showed interest in tennis and swimming. Eventually, I ended up picking tennis as my profession and swimming as my hobby.
I have quite a lot of fond memories in this sports journey of mine. I remember my dad waking me up and dragging me at 5 in the morning for a jog and some workout. Then there was a time when my mom used to cut short my school and take me home early so I would not be late for my practice. I also remember that when I was 5 years old, there was no one who could get me off the court because I loved the game so much that I just didn’t care about the time or anything else. Although, I started playing the sport as a hobby, it ended up becoming my full-time profession.
When I was 14, I decided to play tennis full-time and discontinued regular schooling. There was some hesitation but I think that was the point I knew I could be really good at tennis. I was recognized when I reached my first semi-final in ITF Namibia in 2017.
When I started playing tennis the only names, I knew were Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer. I did not really understand so much about the game at that point of time but just the joy of balls getting hit here and there got me excited. I really loved their will to fight and their calmness, especially Federer, When I watched him play. I still wonder how he is so calm because when I play matches at this level, I feel so many emotions rushing through. I can’t imagine what they would be going through at that level. When things are down and out, they just don’t give up and keep fighting through whatever comes their way and it really inspires me. Even though now I am a Novak Djokovic follower, I am still in awe with Federer’s calm.
We all know that you are successful in your sport. But the first win and the first trophy are always special. Do you remember your 1st success as a tennis player? If yes, how will you describe that moment?
My first win was when I was 12. I won both AITA U-12 and U-14 singles titles in Lucknow. It was a very special, of course, not only because it was my first win but also because the date was special.
I still remember that we were having a ritual for my Grandmother’s death anniversary and I was playing both my finals on the same day. I hurried home just to be in time for the ritual and at that moment I felt like she would be very proud of me. It would describe that moment as a moment which cannot be described because I felt so many emotions rushing through me that it will be hard to describe it in any manner.
My parents have been the backbone of my journey. I feel I would not be anywhere without their support. My parents have always supported me and guided me towards being a better version of myself. I have learnt from them that even though I might not have a good day but there are surely better days ahead of me. There also have been many instances where I have had very bad days and almost gave up my sport but with their support, I have become the best version of me till date.
Are you good in your studies as well? If yes, how do you able to manage sports and studies? How’s your school/college has been supportive of it?
I have been lucky on the education front. I am studying at REVA University, Bangalore and I feel I am studying in one of the most supportive colleges. They have encouraged me and supported me in my profession a lot. Even though it is tough for me to attend college regularly, I still manage to hold up my grades and I think I am doing pretty well. It is really overwhelming to see my professors and my friends so supportive and happy on my wins. It is like they have become my extended family in such a short span.
What would you say is one aspect of your game that is a real strength for you?
I would say it is my will to fight. I think that is one aspect which has not changed over the course of time.
Despite your young age, you seem to shoot well under pressure. Please tell us about your mental game.
It is really tough under pressure to keep your cool and to keep up the process at that point. I think I have been good on my mental aspect only because of my mentor Mughdha. She has really changed my perspective towards this sport. I think this part of my game was at the lowest for the past few months and I was clueless how to go about it. This aspect now, has become so much better and I think it will become my strength in the near future.
Even if a person reaches the pinnacle, there is always scope for improvement. And in sports, you should improve daily. A healthy competition or rivalry often helps a sportsperson to improve. So, who is that tennis player with whom you have a healthy rivalry?
Surely, there are a lot of healthy rivalries in this sport. I can’t really recall any such rivalries I have but surely, I consider my today’s self as my rival and will definitely love to beat her every day. My today must be better than my yesterday, that is my only perspective which keeps me improving every day.
The biggest hurdle of my tennis career would be working on becoming a better athlete and keeping the discipline towards the sport. During the lockdown, I really changed my perspective towards my mind and the importance of staying fit through eating healthy and working hard day in and day out. I feel like it was a massive accomplishment for me.
If you could list three major influences in your tennis career, what three would that be?
The three people who have had a massive impact on my tennis career are my coach Srinath Prahlad, Javier Capitaine and my senior Kyra Shroff. They have supported me and guided me through the ups and downs of my career.
I was playing a final in Bangalore and I was down 4-5. I was serving and in between one of the points, I had a very bad fall. I had scrapes and I was bleeding pretty bad. After that fall, I lost the first set. I fought my way back and eventually I won the match. I didn’t have time to collect the trophy as I had to fly for another tournament. Sitting at the airport, I realized the happiness and the excitement of what I had done earlier in the day. I had never been so proud of myself before and I think that was my favourite moment in tennis.
This sport has definitely changed me as a person. I would not call these sacrifices because I feel these are part and parcel of what we do. I had a choice and I don’t regret anything I had to give up. I feel tennis has made me very disciplined and also developed a lot of positive qualities in me. But yes, definitely I would be lying If I said I did not miss indulging at times and spending time with my friends.
I am majorly working on my fitness as of now. Apart from that, I have been working on my tennis endurance, my backhands and my serves. Also, I am working on my footwork which is quite a task.
What are your plans and goals for your life in tennis? How do you see your future in the sport? Do you plan to stay involved in tennis for many years?
My present goal is to be at least top 10 in India by December 2021. Yes, I do plan to stay involved in tennis for many years in future.
Dream Mixed Doubles Partner
My dream mixed doubles partner would be Novak Djokovic.
What is your go-to shot?
My go-to shot would be forehand short-cross.
Imagine you were to be awarded the ATP/ WTA Award for things done in your private life, what would you receive it for?
I would love to receive the award for shaping the career and moulding children. I believe everyone has talent but the challenge lies in how it can be harnessed.
What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you on the court?
I think I was around 10 years old and we were playing team points. There were around 10-15 people on the court. I was at the net and I got this really easy smash. I ended up swinging the racket in the air and missed the ball completely. On top of that, I fell after swinging and I think that was the most embarrassing moment for me.
Federer or Nadal?
I prefer Rafael Nadal.