Image Credits: @Riya Uboveja
Ahmedabad’s Riya Uboveja is considered one of India’s fastest-rising tennis players, and she has explained that her tennis background goes even deeper.
With a father who embody a passion for tennis, Riya Uboveja had her fate in store. Her father played collegiately in Mumbai. She has developed an extraordinary affinity toward the sport and started playing at the age of nine and from then on there was no looking back.
Riya has always been a person of impressive wisdom and maturation. She is as good at academics as she is in sports. In spite of her hectic training schedule, Riya manages to excel at studies as well. She makes it a point to attend all of her exams and do well in them. Her intelligence matches the energy she gives on the field and as a dignified leader.
The Ryan International School student has many accomplishments to her name, most notable ones being the four ITF Juniors titles and two runners-up finish along with singles runner up and doubles winner in U-14 Asians grade-2 in Doha, and U-14 Asians Sri Lanka singles and doubles runner up and U-18 national series doubles winner and runner up.
At the age of 13, she made it to the top-8 of U-14 road to Wimbledon Masters singles and reached the quarters of ATT Women’s in Pune and followed by eye-catching singles and doubles runners-up finish at 50 lac women’s events in Kolkata and Gwalior.
A self-confessed Rafael Nadal fan, Riya was ranked Top-8 in Asia when she was 14. Her double U-16 super series singles titles in back-to-back weeks back in 2019 highlighted her talent in stunning fashion.
With a booming serve and powerful baseline game, the tall and lanky Ahmedabad native plays like a younger version of Spanish-Venezuelan ace Garbiñe Muguruza. But wants to strive to be a player similar as Monica Seles.
The 18-year-old is highly rated and is strongly fancied to continue her upward trajectory in the sport.
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?
Ever since I was young, tennis has been a part of my life in one way or another. I used to watch my dad and his friends play tennis every morning on the only court our society has in Mumbai at the age of eight and since then I developed a keen interest in this sport. He [dad] is a huge fan of tennis and coincidentally I started liking it too. I remember how I used to wake up in the morning and force my friends to go to the court with me to play, although mostly because of the adults we had to wait, so I used to bounce the ball and just play with the tennis ball on the side till they finished playing (which was obviously very long). But it was at the age of 9 when I actually started playing the sport and joined an academy.
Who were your first tennis heroes? What was significant about their achievements or character that you admired?
Rafael Nadal was and will always be the one I admire the most. He is my reference, and continues to be. It is his dedication and hard work towards the sport that inspires me. I am also a huge fan of Serena Williams, who is another fighter and who’s mindset is something I admire a lot.
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 as a tennis player came about when I was nine years old. I won some local tournaments in Mumbai. That moment was very special indeed, receiving my first trophy encouraged me to push myself to be better and it gave me a lot of motivation and hope to keep working hard.
Where do you train now and who is your coach now?
I train at Altevol Tennis Academy, under the guidance of Shrimal Bhatt.
Tennis on an elite pathway requires dedication and commitment; aside from providing funding and transport for training, how did your parents support you emotionally pre-competition?
They always tell me to enjoy my time on court and to give my best performance without any expectation. I feel their words give me a lot of motivation and strength to play better and better.
How would you describe your playing style, and which player would you compare it to?
My playing style is that of an aggressive baseliner and I can say it is more like Spanish-Venezuelan tennis player Garbiñe Muguruza but I am striving to make it Monica Seles’ style.
Are you good at your studies as well? If yes, how do you able to manage sports and studies? How’s your school/college has been supportive towards it?
Yes, I am good at studies. I can say it is a little tough to manage tennis and studies together, but it is possible and I am doing it comfortably, plus my school is very supportive towards it. Most people think it is tough to balance them but honestly, I feel like with the right mindset everything is possible.
What have been your major highlights/achievements in tennis?
My major highlights include making it to the masters of the road to Wimbledon and reaching the top-8 at the age of 13 and reaching singles finals in Asians held at Hyderabad, Doha and Sri Lanka with the highest rank of 8 in Asia. Plus reaching my first singles finals in ITF juniors.
I am sure there are times during your training that you aren't achieving the results that you want. What do you do to lift your spirits during such times?
I don’t get upset, I just tell myself to hang in there, keep working and to remember that this is just another phase of life which is temporary.
Tennis requires a high level of endurance and stamina. What do you do to raise your endurance and stamina levels?
I train and train a lot for that. I feel like fitness is the key. You just have to push hard during fitness and then it becomes easier while playing.
What is the toughest aspect of being a tennis player and what do you enjoy the most about it?
The toughest part is controlling the emotions and the part I enjoy the most is travelling. I really like travelling.
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?
There are quite a few out there in the junior’s circuit who push me out of my limits and help me in realizing which skill to improvise next.
Any funny or remarkable instances during a match/practice that you remember?
So, this one time, in a junior tournament, I was playing a really close match and I was a match point down. On that point, we had a long rally and on one shot, I got late and the ball hit the side pole of the net. I thought I had lost the match, so I was turning around to get my towel but what actually happened was that the ball had somehow crossed the net and fallen in after touching the side pole. I got the point because the other girl was very far from the ball cause even, she had thought the point was over. We were both surprised but I felt very happy and lucky and from there I won the match and it all felt like a miracle. I was indeed very happy.
Finally, what goals have you set for the years? And for the next years of your college and beyond?
Well, the goal is to become a professional and play WTA tournaments. For that, I am going to keep getting better every day and improve my skills, physically and mentally.
What would you be if not a tennis player?
If you were to be awarded the ATP Award for things done in your private life, what would you receive for it?
Motivational and inspirational speaking
Which is your favourite social network and why?
It is probably Instagram because I like posting pictures and watching tennis videos.
Federer or Nadal?