Prior to April 2012, Shashikant Rajput had never held a racquet or thought about playing tennis. Today the 13 year old is 23rd ranked player in India. His world changed when in 2012, as an 11-year-old he was inducted in the Chandigarh Academy for Rural Tennis (CHART) programme of Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association after getting sponsorship from the Haryana government.
A son of shopkeeper from Bhiwani, Shashikant not only learnt the rudimentary of the game but also started giving results.
This year alone, he has won a couple of All India Tennis Association (AITA) tournaments along with a team gold and individual silver medal in school national games. His latest title win came in AITA Championship Series in CLTA at the start of April this year and then in the Road to Wimbledon (RTW), he finished fourth besides winning mixed doubles title partnering with Prinkle Singh.
“I never thought of playing tennis, so when the opportunity came and with Haryana government was sponsoring my family took a chance,” Shashikant said, who studies in DAV Senior Secondary School, Sector 8. Shashikant is part of the nine players—six boys and three girls—who are sponsored by the Haryana Government. Besides them CLTA also plays hosts to 11 players sponsored by Punjab government.
“He is a good upcoming talent. As he plays more he will gain the much needed experience and his game will also improve. He has an all round game and plays using variation and also is not afraid to go to the net,” said Gajendra Singh, director coaching & development at CLTA.
In the recently concluded RTW, Shashikant gave a good account of his talent. He played just two of the four events and was semifinalists in Chandigarh leg and was quarterfinalists in Delhi. In the RTW Masters, he was the 15th out of the 16 qualifiers. The youngster finished fourth in the singles and registered big wins over Sanchit Sharma in round robin in the early stages of the event. Then in the knockout stage, Shashikant defeated Himanshu Mor. Both these players have represented Indian U -14 team.
“My confidence is high right now. The wins also give you confidence and belief that you can compete with the others. I would like to continue in the same vein,” Shashikant said, who counts Andre Agassi as his favourite player. Next in line for Shashikant is Nationals at Ahmedabad along with AITA Championship Series.
“I am looking to do well in both the events. I have worked hard on my game,” the youngster said, on his way to Ahmedabad.