Arjun Kadhe is appreciating the value of being at the right place at the right time. The 19-year-old from Pune, who will play his first full year on the men’s tour this year, was recently recruited in the Davis Cup squad after 11 of India’s players rebelled against the All India Tennis Association.
But Kadhe beat even stiffer odds (there are 128 players in the men’s singles main draw alone) at last year’s French Open, when he was still playing in the juniors, when his locker was next to that of Roger Federer. “At the French Open, the juniors share the locker room and lounge with seniors,” says Kadhe, on the sidelines of the Maharashtra Tennis League, underway in Pune.
“I kept my stuff in the locker and went out for ten minutes; when I returned Federer was there, using the locker next to mine! I used to try and strike a conversation with him every day for that one week.
“He was aware that Indian tennis is coming up and even gave me some tips before my match. I don’t have a lot of experience playing on clay, so he told me that the courts there were really slow and you need to be patient, make space for yourself rather than rushing into the shot.
“That day it was quite windy on the court too so he told me a bit about how to handle the swirling ball.” Kadhe made it to the quarterfinals of the doubles event, his best Grand Slam result yet. Incidentally, it wasn’t the only celebrity lesson for the youngster. Kadhe also had the opportunity of sparring with world No 5 David
Ferrer during a two-month training programme at Tennis Valencia.
High Fitness Level
Ferrer is one of the biggest grinders on the Tour, but the Indian youngsters are for now trying to measure up to the high fitness standard set by Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh.
“I think that’s why a League like this is so important. We get to see up close how these guys train, and try to match up to them.”
Armed with star tips, Kadhe will now try and make most of the Davis Cup opportunity that unexpectedly presented itself last week.