When the short and skinny Mihika Yadav outperformed top seeded Simran Kaur Sethi in their round of 16 tie of the CCI-ITF Junior Tennis Tournament,not many would have guessed the victor was ranked 649 places below her opponent on the ITF rank list. Playing at the Cricket Club of India tennis courts,the 14-year old upset her junior India No 2 opponent in a three-set encounter,eventually winning 6-2,3-6,7-5,taking her to the quarterfinal stages of her fifth ITF tournament.
Standing at just 52,the Babolat racquet brandishing teenager makes up for her relative lack of speed with a combination of placement and unexpected power,which she generates from jumping during a forehand shot. Her pleasant demeanour on court – she is often seeing smiling or laughing with her doubles partner Yinglak Jittakoat during their games – stands out when compared to the relatively straight-faced players participating in the tournament. Whats the point of playing the game if you cant have fun on court? she says,laughing.
An only child of Sanjay and Himani,Yadav originally started off as a swimmer. I started playing tennis at the age of 5 when a nearby club built some courts. My friends and I decided to start playing as a recreational activity, she says. A few months at the game made the Bombay Scottish student realise her potential and her love for the game.
Participation at the U-8 and U-10 levels in local club levels was her first calling into the competitive nature of the sport,followed by the nine national level tournaments she has participated in till date,winning her latest venture in October at the U-14 level in New Delhi. Studying in the ninth grade,she explains that she is grateful for her schools behavior towards her career. They allow me to take leave whenever I have a tournament,and thats a major boost for me because there is no pressure from them with regards to attendance, she says.
Parental support too has come easily to her. Mum and dad never go bonkers over me playing. They have always told me to enjoy myself when Im playing and have never pressurised me to top the class, she states,smiling as she mentions that she has always finished in the top-10 in her class. While father Sanjay,an Air India pilot is often absent from the sidelines,mother Himani never fails to miss her daughters game.
Unseeded in the tournament,Yadav now plays against another unseeded player,Nidhi Surapaneni in her next round.
Results: Girls singles (Pre-quarterfinals): Mihika Yadav bt Simran Kaur Sethi 6-2,3-6,7-5; Nidhi Surapaneni bt Thanushree Vale 6-2,6-3; Nermeen Shawky (Egypt) bt Nida Kamal 6-2,6-3; Karman Kaur Thandi bt Avika Sagwal 6-1,6-1; Sanjana Sudhir bt Madhumita PVRajan 6-2,6-0; Anastasiya Klymenko (Ukraine) bt Vasanti Shinde 6-2,6-1; Boys singles (Pre-quarterfinals): Alexey Prokopchuk (Ukraine) bt Lakshmanan Balaji 6-2,6-4; Chanudom Wiriyajanyong (Thailand) bt Anurag Nenwani 6-2,3-6,6-1; Paramveer Singh Bajwa bt Mayuk Rawat 7-5,6-4; SD Prajwal Dev bt Nishangan Nadaraja (Sri Lanka) 6-4,6-2.