Rutuja Bhosale was erratic against an opponent ranked 300 rungs above her on Tuesday but still put up a great fight to justify getting a Wild Card. The 21-year-old state player carrying a long-time shoulder injury was wearing an Adidas T-shirt while on court but she is yet to find a major sponsor.
She has already won two $15K series ITF titles this year, and after an outstanding display against Israeli opponent Deniz Khazaniuk in the L&T Mumbai Open WTA $125K series singles first round where she went down 4-6, 3-6, the Pune lass is hopeful sponsors will come.
“I need sponsors. I don’t even have equipment sponsor. I have to spent a lot on travelling and physio sessions. I skip regular physio sessions at times as expenditure is too high. My parents try to balance out eveything. They don’t disclose to me the finances but I know they are finding it hard to manage,” said the 577-ranked player who climbed up 27 places on Monday.
The lanky Rutuja supported by MSLTA played the $125K series straight after playing the $15K and $25K series. Though the climb was steep, she didn’t give up against Deniz who had won two games in the qualifier and was used to the ball and conditions. She had her moments but couldn’t seize them and the minimal crowd turnout couldn’t spurr her in home conditions.
Rutuja was the only Indian to make it past the first round when last time India hosted a Women’s Tennis Association tournament, the Royal Indian Open in Pune back in 2012. But four years of College Tennis in A&M Texas University where she graduated in Business made her stay away from professional tennis but she feels US College tennis has made her mentally strong and steadier.
“Before going to the US I had Adidas and another sponsor. Now I have no sponsor. Reliance Youth Foundation signed me last month but that’s a little amount as they will take care of all Indian and two foreign tournaments, I need big sponsors,” she said.
Rutuja showed her mental toughness on Tuesday evening. She traded breaks with Deniz in the first set and fought back in the second set after trailing 0-4 to hold serves twice for the first time in the match and later get a break before running out of steam.
The 21-year-old admitted she needs to get stronger as women’s tennis has more become about power at higher level. “The ball was gettting bigger and heavy for me as I tried to hit flat shots. I could feel it (load) on my shoulder going around. I am carrying a shoulder injury since the age of 17 and have been advised surgery, which means I won’t play for at least six months. I don’t want that at this juncture as the rehab is helping me and it has been stable for five years.”
“I am not strong enough and that’s one aspect of my game to work on. At the moment I don’t know whether to put on some weight or just strengthen myself,” she said.
Rutuja wants to do MBA but at the moment she wants to just play tennis. “I have two $15K and two $25K tournaments next lined up. I want to do MBA but for the moment I don’t want to see books as I have been tired managing studies and tennis in the US,” she signed off.