City tennis player Sanam Singh,who had a dream run in 2012,will play at CLTA courts after a gap of seven months.
It was a Saturday last year and despite the chill in the air,beads of sweat were palpable on his forehead. Staring down the barrel at 2-5 in the first set of the final,losing another game would have surely crippled,rather killed,his dreams of winning his second ITF futures title in his own backyard,the same place where he took to tennis years ago. It wasn’t the time to hold back emotions but rather use it as a tool to get nearer to his dream. What happened next changed the complexion of the game,as Sanam Krishan Singh won the next five games in a row to bamboozle N Sriram Balaji,his opponent,7-5. He did not stretch it too far in the second set and won,6-3,in what was his second ITF futures title and the first after turning pro in Virginia 2011. En route to the title,he had some memorable victories- the best one coming against top seed Vishnu Vardhan.
Before this title which he won last year in February,Sanam,billed as a talented player,had won just one futures and the Asian Games doubles gold medal with Somdev Devvarman.
The futures title surely acted as a catalyst to push Sanam farther and elevated him to a place where he was destined to be. His ranking at that time was hovering somewhere in the Top 800 in the ATP rankings and representing India still seemed a distant dream.
A year has gone by since that fateful day and how quickly the times have changed for Sanam. In the last one year itself,he has won six ITF futures titles,featured in three Davis Cup ties,and has jumped almost 500 places to be currently placed 337 in the ATP rankings. How those memories mean to him as Sanam,with an enviable ITF futures record in the past one year,returns to the same court from where his career really took off.
That futures title I won in Chandigarh was my first after college. It was a great victory and after that I won many futures title in India. It always feels freat to come to Chandigarh as I have some good memories from here. Moreover,my mother is here and I enjoy the home-made food cooked by her. Its comfortable here and I spend a lot of time with my mother and I also meet friends. I started my journey in tennis from India and I like it here a lot,” recalled Sanam,on the eve of the qualifiers of the ITF men’s futures US$-15,000 tennis tournament to be held at CLTA courts in Sector 10.
The victory at Chandigarh kick-started his career as Sanam followed it up with two other futures titles- at Bhopal and Bhimavaram- to make it hat-trick of futures titles. The best moment was yet to come as Sanam was named in the Indian Davis Cup team for the Asia/Oceania Group I tie against Uzbekistan. But it was not the ideal start to his Davis Cup career as Sanam was struck down by chicken pox. An opporunity to cement his case in front of the AITA officials was lost. After recovering,he soldiered on and continued with his impressive run in futures tournaments.
When Mahesh Bhupati and Rohan Bopanna paid price for their rebellious stand against AITA and were dropped from the Indian Davis Cup team for the New Zealand tie and Leander Paes made himself unavailable,Sanam and a new crop of Indian players grabbed the chance and made the most of it. While India decimated New Zealand,5-0,to complete a whitewash,it was Sanam’s performance on the last day in a dead rubber that made heads turn and some even acknowledged that ‘India had reserved the best player for the last day.’ The victory had come at Chandigarh,at the same CLTA courts where he first showed glimpse of his latent talent.
I saw a lot of Davis Cup matches and it was always my dream to represent my country. That was the dream I grew up with. I hoped someday I will get the chance to play for India. It was a great moment to play in Chandigarh, said Sanam,25.
But perhaps it was his pairing with Leander Paes,the tennis legend,in the Davis Cup tie against Indonesia earlier this month that was one of the most memorable moments of his life. The confluence of the past and the future of Indian tennis was mesmeric. “We never thought we would have it so easy against Indonesia in the tie,specially the doubles. We expected a tough challenge. Playing along with Leander was a great experience. He kept encouraging me and it was a great result for India,” chuckled Sanam.
After two back-to-back titles in the last month of December last year- at Davanagere and Dharwad,Sanam got off to a good start in 2013 also by winning the futures title in Calabasas in USA in March. “Apart from that,I had some good wins in Australia,” said Sanam,referring to his appearance in the futures and Challenger tournaments in Australia in February while further adding,”I will probably go back to America and play there. I have not decided yet but yes,I want to play as many tournaments as possible. And I am surely looking to improve my ATP rankings. It is something that I have been working on in the last one year.” And it seems to have worked as Sanam,in December last year,achieved his career-best ATP ranking of 293. Right now,he is the fourth highest ATP ranked Indian player after Somdev Devvarman (187),Yuki Bhambri (271) and N Sriram Balaji (322)