The girls in the under-14 and under-12 categories took to the courts on day two of the 2016 HCL Inter-School Tennis Challenge here in Chennai at the Sri Ramachandra University. After the boys had had their day out in the sun on day one, it was the turn of the girls.
Yesterday was a unique day for more reason than one though, as there were twin girls in action – not just one, but two sets of twins.
Lavanya and Sharanya Sreekrishnan along with Prathika and Yuthika Sundar were the cynosures of all eyes here.
Lavanya and Sharanya Sreekrishnan
I caught up with Lavanya and Sharanya while they were busy waiting for their afternoon matches, taking the time off to chat around with the other participants and maybe even play the odd trick on them.
Aged 13 years old, it isn’t easy to distinguish them, but Lavanya has a discernible scar above her right eye – the only indication of a difference to the passive observer. The twins have been now playing tennis for the last three years. Their father was a cricketer in his younger days, and that brought the sporting connection into the family.
Their father Mr. Sreekrishnan actively manages the girls’ itineraries now.
The two girls are very competitive and they tell me that they don’t like losing. In their only meeting however, at a tournament in Hyderabad last year, Lavanya ended up the victor in three sets. A very significant victory at that, considering Sharanya almost always ended up on the winning side when they played in practice.
The girls train under Abbas Ali Baig, a prominent tennis coach here, who has worked with the likes of Somdev Devvarman in his early days.
When asked about their favourite players, Lavanya said it’s Novak Djokovic, while Stan Wawrinka is the man for Sharanya. She got an opportunity to meet him in person, she gleefully smiles, at this year’s Aircel Chennai Open. She blushes when she says that she got a smiling “hi” from Stan in their brief encounter.
Outside of tennis, they claim they are good singers, a hobby that began in the bathroom where they would sing movie songs together. Singing is also a double act as far as these sisters are concerned.
They have dreams of one day improving and travelling to Spain to train hard and work on their tennis. Tournaments like the HCL Tennis Challenge would obviously help them along the way, and it will be interesting to trace their journey ahead and watch out for some twin magic along the way.
Prathika and Yuthika Sundar
Much less talkative than the twins above, but still almost in sync when they answered questions, Prathika and Yuthika made for another interesting conversation. Training at the YMCA, the two 13-year-olds consider Serena Wiliams their favourite tennis star. They have only been in the game for two years now and as a result, are at a very nascent stage in their growth arc.
Accompanied by their mother Mano Sundar, who does all the travelling with the girls, both of them suffered losses here, but were keen to use the experience going ahead. Their mother said as much, claiming that she enrolled them in the tournament as a means of providing exposure to them, neither having ever played a tournament before.
She has also shot videos of the matches, she explained, to go back and show to their coaches on how they can get better in future.
Amongst the players in action, a few really caught the eye with their ball-striking talent in the girls under-14 category.
Viveha Sivaraman (3rd seed, AITA rank – 46) – She is amongst the most impressive players here, and has a lot going for her. Her game is technically rock solid and the way she hits the forehand and backhand is extremely clean. A lefty, she is very crafty with her strokes and her footwork to get to the ball is really good. Above all though, her composure on court is what sets her apart. She's definitely one to watch out for.
Tentu Shrichandrakala (Sacred Heart, 6th seed, AITA rank – 86) – Tentu showed very good shot making skills off both the forehand and backhand. She was able to get back into points even when she was being moved around a bit.
R Rithika (Kolaperumal Chetty, 16th seed, AITA rank – 367) – She has a great looking first serve. If she can make more out of it, it could really help out in her overall game. She has a big forehand, albeit a very erratic one.
Joshika Premkumar (Bhavans, 5th seed, AITA rank – 80) – She has great technique on the forehand and is able to generate pace and zip with it. Her serve too is good, helped by her tall build.
V K Adithi (Sacred Heart, 8th seed, AITA rank – 123) – She's a stylish left-hander with a good serve. She isn't very pacy, but has great placement that helps her get points. She has a solid forehand too.
Wednesday sees the team events begin.
With this tournament, HCL Enterprise, in association with Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academies, is offering a platform to young tennis players and giving them a golden opportunity to showcase their talent. This year’s tournament is being played between February 22nd and 27th with young boys and girls from around 50 schools participating, including prominent ones such as Sishya, Good Shepherd, Padma Seshadri and Kendriya Vidyalaya.
The winners of the Delhi tournament, Suyash Gupta (Boys) and Smriti Singh (Girls) were sent to the SchuttlerWaske Tennis University, Frankfurt, Germany for a one-week, all expense paid training program. The winners of the Chennai tournament will also get an opportunity to go for a similar training program with an international academy.