Pune girl Salsa Aher would represent the country at the WTA Future Stars Tournament to be held in Singapore from October 16 to 23. The tournament would see top Under-16 and Under-14 players from 24 countries (one from each country) taking part. The tournament has been divided into four groups of six players each in Round Robin format and top player from each group would qualify for the semi-finals.
Parag Aher, Salsa’s father, said that for the WTA tournament, she has been practising on court for nearly four hours every day, in addition to three hours of fitness training. “Besides, she also plays matches with her coaches,” said her father. Talking about Salsa’s strengths as a player, the father said, “Being a left-hander, it works to her advantage because of her strong forehand cross-court as well as forehand inside-out. Her backhand is also good. These two things, with very good consistency has resulted in lifting her game to a new level. A year ago, her ITF Jr world ranking was around 1,000 and today she is ranked 315. Guess she is progressing rock solid towards the target of world junior rank of under 100 by the end of December 2018. It will enable her to play the grand slams.”
Talking about her weakness, he said that Salsa was a bit slower in footwork but his coach Kedar Shah of Bounce Academy worked on it and improvement was now visible. In July, Shah took her to Spain for a month-long intense fitness coaching where focus was more on stability. Salsa practises at Bounce Academy and is sponsored by Lakshya/GIC and MSLTA Vision programme.
The young player’s passion for tennis was evident in March this year, when she missed her Class 10 board exams to play Junior Indian Fed Cup. Later, she also missed her supplementary exams in July to attend coaching camp in Spain. “Thankfully, her school (Symbiosis School) is helping her with special exams as per Salsa’s tournament calendar, and she should clear her boards in March 2018 positively. She studies for an hour everyday and sleeps at sharp 10 pm,” said her father.
At present, Salsa’s AITA national ranking U16 is 2 and U18 is 7. While she was U14 singles and doubles runner up in Fenesta Open in 2015, she won U16 National series in 2016. In October last year, she won U16 Delhi Fenesta singles title and was the runner up in the doubles event. This year, she won singles SS U18 title at Nanded & NS 18 at Hyderabad. She also won her first ITF Jr G5 runner up trophy in Thailand. Salsa idolises ace tennis star Garbine Muguruza. “I follow her game style a lot. Infact, my game is a lot like her’s – the way she hits the ball, her explosive split step, her footwork, service action,” said Salsa.
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