“Unless a talented tennis player is encouraged and supported, it will be more difficult for the kids to take up tennis as a profession. They may prefer a team game like cricket, which has all the focus now,” says Prithvi Sekhar, the first Indian to win the World Deaf Tennis Championship last month. Despite all the success he has achieved in the past couple of years and a job in sports quota, Prithvi is struggling to get a sponsor for himself.
The 26-year-old tennis star, born with a hearing impairment has defeated all the odds to gain himself a reputation in the tennis circuit. Prithvi- an unseeded player in the tournament has defeated the third-seeded Jaroslav Smedek from the Czech Republic in the finals.
He also won the bronze medal in the Men’s doubles category with Dasharath Harsambhavi Harsambhavi. In 2017, Prithvi won the bronze medal in the Mixed doubles category while playing alongside with Jafreen Shaik.
Prithvi credits his parents and coach for encouraging him to take up a sport as a career to defy the physical inability and live a normal life like others. He takes inspiration from the journey of players like Novak Djokovic and tries to emulate them. When young athletes and kids who take up the sport for the joy of playing it, Prithvi’s journey is nothing short of an inspiration to them.
Ahead of International Men’s day he was more than happy to give an interview for Penbugs. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
It’s been 17 years since you started holding a tennis racquet in your hand. When you look back, what you made of this journey?
When I look back, I feet a lot of progress over the years and I am happy that I was able to bring glory to my country. I feel so happy and proud of it. I believe I have much more to achieve in the future.
How do you feel defeating the experienced and seeded players in this event?
Yes, I was so happy about winning the GOLD medal in the world Deaf Championships held at Turkey. It was the first time India won in the world Championships. I am so proud of it. I went into the match with good mental preparation, solid tennis and I was confident that I can do it in this tournament as my aim was to win the gold medal. I played really good tennis. I proved that I can beat all the seeded players in the World Deaf Championship. Yes, in 2015 I made the Quarterfinals, but the players were better than me. I said to myself that I can do it next time and work harder for the next four years.
Since you started in 2013, what are the extra/additional lessons that you have taken from playing at the global event?
It gave me a lot of confidence as I learnt how to play with International players. I also had an opportunity to play with the International Tennis Federation(ITF) seniors players, which helped while laying at the global event.
Tennis is something that isn’t affordable for many, especially in a state like TN. Where do you think the sport is now and how much interest kids show in tennis than team sports?
This is a good question. Tennis is an expensive game. I myself do not have any sponsors at this stage. Unless a talented tennis player is encouraged and supported, it will be more difficult for the kids to take up tennis as a profession. They may prefer a team game like cricket, which has all the focus now.
How do you balance out between playing both normal and deaf category? Are there any significant differences?
Both normal and deaf category are the same. When I play in the normal category, I will be playing with my hearing aid. When in the Deaf category, I do not use my hearing aid. All the tennis rules and regulations in both normal and deaf category are the same. I don’t do any special preparations for the Deaf category.
Tell us about the role your family and coaches had to play in your career
My family has always supported me and motivated me to take up this sport. They are still continuing to do so both morally and financially. If not for their backing and encouragement, I would not have reached this level. My coach Suresh Kumar and Balaji has inspired me a lot by their motivational approach and also have corrected my errors then and there when required.
What do you enjoy most- individual, doubles and mixed doubles?
I have enjoyed playing every format in tennis. There isn’t any specific format as favourite and I love playing anything be it Men’s singles, Men’s doubles or Mixed doubles.
Your Favourite players from tennis and other sports?
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are my favourites; from other sports Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo in Football; Virat Kolhi and MS Dhoni in cricket.