You would be forgiven for associating the start of the Indian women’s tennis scene with Sania Mirza. Seven years before Mirza made her big breakthrough Down Under, Nirupama Vaidyanathan became the first Indian woman ever to win a main draw match at a Grand Slam (at the 1998 Australian Open) and peaked all the way at no. 121 in the world rankings.
The Indian now has a new book out, aptly titled “The Moonballer” and Sportskeeda caught up with her for a quick chat.
Not many know that you were the first Indian woman to win a main draw match in a Grand Slam way back in 1998. Do you feel you have not received enough recognition for your achievements in Indian tennis?
Well, it’s normal for sportspeople to be forgotten for what they achieved 10-15 years ago. But it’s a good feeling that I initiated the path to pro tennis in India.
Your book is named ‘The Moonballer’. What is the reason behind it and does it reflect on your playing style?
It is to signify modest beginnings. I started playing tennis as a five-year-old and moonballed a lot (hit high balls). But when I played pro tennis, I was an all-court player, who relished coming to the net.
The name is to let young kids of today understand that you can start modestly but can achieve great things in life. The key is to keep at it.
What’s your best memory from your playing days?
I loved playing tournaments in Australia. It was such a beautiful country and the people were so warm. I also played well there under windy conditions.
What are your thoughts on the scene of women’s tennis in India today?
A lot can be done. The potential is there, but it’s still untapped. No one seems to be willing to guide them correctly.
Sania Mirza – trailblazer or underachiever?
Trailblazer for sure. She showed everyone that an Indian could be top 50 in the world in the women’s rankings.
You made a comeback in 2010 at the age of 33. What prompted that comeback?
I saw that India needed me at that time. I also felt I could help the juniors in India. But I needed to prove to everyone that I could still play.
How do you spend your time these days? Are you still involved with the sport?
I have a tennis academy in USA called Nirus Tennis Academy. I teach more than 250 kids and have four centres there. I’m also working on my next book “Parenting a Wimbledon Champ”.