An up and coming Next Gen player of India, Jennifer Luikham has been under the...
Struck by an injury, Indian No. 2 Rutuja Bhosale’s off-season has been relatively quiet this year apart from participating in the Tennis Premier League.
In this free-wheeling interview with Sanketa Anand, Rutuja talks about her experience in TPL, role of her father, MSLTA support and the scene of Indian Womens Tennis.
So how do you feel today coming straight out from being the TPL Trophy Winners.
Winning the season was a great feeling. Punjab Bulls gave a tough fight throughout the game. Beating Pranjala wasn’t easy as she had a great run prior to that. Owners have been quite supportive, always motivating & very family like. Owners & co-owners were always involved, cheering us loud for every game of the tournament. Wish that TPL grows from strength to strength and keeps encouraging the talents in India.
Tell us how 2019 went by for you.
My performance in 2019 could have been better, but I don’t regret as 2019 was quite high on engagements & tournaments. I got the opportunity to play some of the best players under top 200. Travelled and competed with them in foreign countries. Towards the end, TPL was a great thing to happen in 2019 as well. So overall happy with how the year went by.
Tell us how did this passion start and about your early days to the viewers?
Yeah, It started as a hobby first. My dad wanted to play tennis and we gave it a shot. Soon I started loving it & it became my passion. My dad was a national athlete in past playing 400m hurdles and javelin throw. Javelin requires a lot of back-arm strength, but he loved it & did very well. He was great at Kabbadi as well but there weren’t enough opportunities in the early days in sport like Kabaddi. Due to family well-being & financial stability, he decided to join the force.
Things have changed now. Even now, he has offers to be physical director of universities, but he is keener to serve the nation in the uniform which we all respect.
You did you minors in Tourism & HR from US. How was the choice picked or is that something you always wanted to pursue beyond Tennis?
Tourism was natural as I loved travelling. HR was mostly as I love interacting with people & community service. At one point, I just wanted to move abroad to study and given the scholarship, I couldn’t say no. It was difficult adjusting in the first year, but towards the end of the studies I was a different person altogether. My whole family was in Texas for final degree convocation & they too felt the same. The entire ecosystem in US College is so good & they take care of you & your sports very professionally. I have written so many papers as a part of submissions & that was not easy. Don’t know how I did it, but yeah, finally it happened. The decision to come back & play for India was natural as we have always wanted to play for the country.
Is your dad a critic of your game as well? I am sure he does follow your games while on duty. Tell us more about that.
He is very busy 24*7. He will get calls anytime even during midnights, especially during social unrest, natural disasters i.e. Pune was submerged in water for so many days.
He doesn’t really get to watch me on the tours. My dad doesn’t criticise much but he will follow my games and keep looking at the scores on his phone. After the match, we talk but keep it light and not discussing the specifics of the game. He trusts my instincts & reading of the game & the situations.
Who do you think is your competition in Indian tennis & how does that motivate you to increase your levels?
We are all playing well given the chances & the opportunities. There is a lot of hope from all of us & we just need to focus ourselves, train in the right way, believe in our abilities. We should not try to be someone else, rather trust your abilities and grow that self. When other tennis players are doing well for the country, it’s so good to see & gives the sport a visibility it requires.
Tell us about the support from MSLTA? Now since TPL came to Pune warriors, do you see things changing?
I have been a part of the winning team Pune Warriors, and it feels great to be there. MSLTA facilities are amazing. The courts, gyms, residential facilities are outstanding. Will prefer MSLTA to host more matches as well, instead of having at Solapur which sometimes gets difficult for us a player too. Mumbai is an easier place to travel comparatively & the MSLTA ecosystem is great & conducive. Lot more things can be done and slowly things are improving. It’s a perfect platform for players to us to grow. If tournaments start happening here, it will be great.
Tell us about your best Trophy/Win till date?
TPL happens to be the most recent and perhaps the best win till date. Pune warriors is like a family. They made us feel like family and feel very comfortable. The insights they used to share was very useful. They kept telling us that we are winning because we are enjoying. There was no pressure, the mandate was just to go out there and enjoy the game.
The support from the audience was great, perhaps the loudest we all witnessed. We wanted Pune to win, especially after Mumbai lost out & thankfully it happened. The trophy still came to Maharashtra so it’s a great thing. I would definitely want to play for Pune Warriors again in future.
Were you in town while the auction happened?
Not really. I was in a tournament when that auction was going on. First time to get involved in something like that was a great feeling. Will want to continue playing for Pune again.
Tell us about your Sponsors?
I was a part of MSLTA Vision program in early days. That helped in a lot of ways.
I was with Reliance Youth Sports Foundation after I graduated from college, but that contract is over now. I am now with Bharat Forge, which is good. We are trying to look out and talk to prospective companies, but nothing yet. If it’s not enough, my parents have to step in and support me financially. We need to keep the money in check too & so we stay mindful about that always. However, If I ever get a chance, would love to go back to Spain for training.
Tell us about the emerging talents?
Excited to witness the emerging talent in Tennis. Knowing the wider tennis fraternity was a good experience. Lots of younger players were there in TPL and was taken aback seeing the amount of talent. Witnessed tremendous interest in Tennis from all corners and it was great.
We had Sadasivam in our team & it was so inspiring and motivating to see him play. It’s not easy to play on a wheelchair and keep the hand eye coordination. Motivating to see how the para athletes are able to perform on the field. It gives a lot of confidence to us to perform on the field and truly nothing is impossible.
Which is your favourite tourist destination?
I love going to beaches. Been from Goa recently & for now I will say that’s one of my favorite’s tourist destinations in India. My favourite destination away will still be Spain, as I still want to explore more of that country. I try to find some time to at least visit one spot in whichever country I tour. Visited Universal Studios in Singapore last time, and I was like a kid there.