Image Credits: @sanvi
As a wise man once proclaimed, “fortune favors the bold.” This Latin proverb is epitomized by Sanvi Ahluwalia’s decision to quit gymnastics and take up tennis, a decision that brought its fair share of victories and defeats.
Sanvi Ahluwalia was born in New Delhi on January 10, 2004, joined gymnastics at the local sports centre at a very age. There, she honed her skills and started to make a name for herself.
As a restless kid, Sanvi tired her hands at many sports, including tennis, after months of training and learning new tricks and trade made her fall in love with the sport which eventually turned into her profession.
Her very first sweet experience was playing for the U-19 nationals, at the age of 9, where she was offered to play against tougher and stronger opponents. Sanvi took to this like a duck to water, and her talent was evident from her very first foray into the sport.
Sanvi shone in Tennis and was quickly regarded as one of the bright up-and-coming talents. Such faith was shown in the young player, and fast forward 2020 – Sanvi is 16. She is a multiple super series singles and doubles title winner, national series doubles winner and currently ranked No.5 in India.
Sanvi has certainly come a long way and has a lot more to learn and a lot more to achieve.
Injury has curtailed her dream to date but the Delhi native has proved repeatedly that underestimating her is a mistake.
Her style is more sporadic, she will find her way out of tight areas with invention, improvisation and guile.
With so many talents emerging in Indian Tennis, Sanvi is ready to stand up and be counted.
Hi, Firstly, could you tell us how your love for tennis began?
During my formative years, I was a restless kid and I decided to try a sport at school. Me and my best friend decided to go for gymnastics. She left gymnastics after 2 months of training, but I was enjoying it and wanted to continue because I could do so many cool things in just 2 months of training which few of the seniors could not and the coach was paying a lot of attention to me.
After 5 months of training, my coach started taking me with the team for tournaments I was the extra one on the team as I was the youngest somehow, I got a chance to perform and I did very well. Since then my coach took me to every tournament and I was the main athlete.
Months of training and learning new things made me fall in love with this sport. My best experience, was when I went for the U-19 nationals when I was only 9 and that was my best performance ever my team won because of me I was an all-rounder gymnast. And when we held the trophy that’s when I knew I could do very well in this sport but because of some bad experience, I had to leave that sport.
When did you say: yes, I will dedicate myself to tennis?
When I was 13, I had the aim to do something which nobody from India has done and that’s when I find myself dedicated to tennis.
Who is your biggest supporter when it comes to tennis and how has your family/college played a role in your tennis career?
My mother is my biggest supporter. Me and my mum have been through a lot of tough times and she believes in me and that’s the biggest support I can ever get and also my family and my coaches have always supported me and trusted my capabilities. I think, the people I am surrounded by has been very positive when it comes to tennis and that’s the biggest pillar.
Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal because of the amount of hard work they put in this sport and their relentless drive, passion and immense talent, can make the non-fans- a fan.
Where do you train now and who is your coach now?
I train in Delhi Lawn Tennis Association with Saurabh Singh.
They always pumped up my confidence and they told me always trust yourself no matter what – you are the best!
Just assume! Would you like to have compete along with Serena Williams and what would have been your tactics to beat her?
Use her pace and change directions whenever I get the chance to and serve to get her out of the court and charge in.
Any tough moments (setbacks, rejections, injuries, basically anything difficult that you have had to overcome)?
Yes, I had a knee injury it was a 74% tear in the ACL ligament. It took me 6 months to get back into the game. I meant it was a very tough time sitting at home in one place not being able to move. To be honest, I can’t live without playing tennis. When I play tennis, I forget about my problems. I think about winning and fun and feel no pain or troubles. I know that tennis football has changed my life for the better.
What are the challenges of playing Tennis in India? Why isn’t it a popular sport among women in your state?
In India, people are not much supportive when it comes to women’s sport as there is a lot of jealousy and people in competition find ways to pull the rising player down. I have experienced it myself.
What is your pregame ritual on game day?
I eat my meal 3 hours before my match and eat small things in between. I keep myself in a focused zone. I have my headphones on and play some favourite music. I start my warm-ups 30 mins before my match.
Are you balance the rigours of tennis and education at the same time?
Yes. I play the whole year and I start preparing 2-3 months before my exams.
Are there any aspects of your game that you would consider underrated?
No. Rivalry is cool as it motivates you to take your game to the next level.
Who is your biggest rival in tennis and what makes that rivalry special?
There is no one specific, but yeah, the players at the same game level because it is like whoever plays better wins and not because the other player played bad.
At this point in your tennis life, what has been the most memorable moment, or moments?
There have been a lot of moments:
1) the Asian doubles finals.
2) Fenesta nationals first round when I was 6-4, 2-6 and 0-5 (0-40) from there I won. There were more than 50 people against me and it was just me and my dad and he kept me motivated and that match went for 5 hours.
There are many moments like these which are memorable.
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?
As you said there are times that you aren’t achieving what you are doing in practice. When I was an amateur, I used to get frustrated and give up. Then my coach told me, every day is not the same and you cannot play well every day but you can always focus on what you are doing and it is not like you won’t ever miss a ball. I just think what my coach says to me and I keep a positive intention while playing.
What is your top three tennis shots to do or that you just generally like?
2. Flying backhand short balls.
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?
I had to sacrifice a lot of things like hanging out with friends, the “easy’ life, to earn something you have to get out of your comfort zone. Many times, me and my mum have travelled in sleeper class in trains and to be very frank we could not afford flights all the time. Yes, I can say that tennis has changed me as a person because it has been my life.
Finally, you are still at a very early stage of your career. What kinds of things are you doing to make yourself the best player you can be?
I am ready for any challenges that are yet to come and I would say I am giving my 100% every time I train. And I am fully devoted to this sport. Tennis is my priority.
Forehand or backhand – FOREHAND FOR SURE!
Spin or flat? – HEAVY SPIN!
Most overused word – LET’S GO!
What is your pump-up song? – “EYE OF THE TIGER” from the movie Rocky 4, “BELIEVER” by imagine dragons.
Which celebrity would you want to be for a day? – LAUREN JAUREGUI
Dream mixed doubles partner? – KYGRIOS ANYTIME!