From Krishnans to Amritrajs and Prajnesh to Ramkumar; Tamil Nadu has produced an array of quality tennis players. Twenty-year-old Manish Sureshkumar could soon join the list. Manish made waves in 2019 by winning the singles title at the Khelo India Youth Games in Pune and clinched two gold medals (singles and team event) in the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal. Manish has also been making significant progress on the professional Tour. At the Pune Challenger last November, he knocked out Rio Noguchi of Japan, a seeded player, to move into pre-quarterfinals.
Excerpts from a freewheeling interview:
How did your tennis career start?
I started playing tennis at the age of nine when my father enrolled me at the Chennai Tennis Academy. Though it was like a hobby I was soon fascinated by the sport and started competing in tournaments. Small wins boosted my confidence and then I decided that it would be my career. I began playing professional tennis at 16. Currently, I am ranked eighth in the country. My ITF rank is 156 and pro rank is 650.
On role models in tennis: When I started playing tennis, it was Novak Djokovic who inspired me. I find him mentally strong. His footwork is one of the best in the world. Chennai's Prajnesh Gunneswaran is like a mentor to me. We train together whenever he is in Chennai. He has given me a lot of advice. I have learnt a lot just by interacting with him.
Your greatest achievement so far?
I consider myself fortunate to have been a part of the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal. I won gold medals in singles and team events. The win against Canadian Steven Diez in a Futures event in China in 2018 is one of the biggest victories of my career. I relish competitions and feel good when I improve my performance. I always strive to give my best, by focusing on the present and forgetting about the setbacks. It helps me transit quickly.
On his coach: Since my childhood, I have been trained by Suresh Sonachalan from Chennai Tennis Academy. He is a passionate coach who loves his trainees. He has instilled a lot of confidence in me.
What are the areas you need to focus on?
I need to focus on putting on a little more weight. I am skinny for a tennis player. If increasing my weight, I will be able to add a bit more power on my shots.
As you travel a lot, who is your best buddy on tour? New Delhi's Sidharth Rawat is my best friend. We travel together for tournaments regularly. We also play doubles.
On Davis Cup dream: It is one of my goals. I need to work hard to get there but I am hopeful of accomplishing it. For every sportsperson, it is always a pride to play for the country and I am no different.
On future goals: My upcoming tournament is the ATP challenger tour event in Bangkok. It starts on January 20. My goal is to break into the top 300 this season.