Rutuja Bhosale is living a dream and she doesn't want it to end. Between congratulatory messages and phone calls, the 15-year-old from Pune managed her trademark grin after a dominating semifinal victory at the DLTA on Friday.
After ousting the top seed in the first round of the Fenesta Open National Tennis Championship, the Asian junior champion got rid of third seed Rushmi Chakravarthi 6-4, 6-4 to set up a final with Isha Lakhani.
Till a few months back, Rutuja was unsure of her backhand. However, the way she played double-fisted shots on Friday, it seemed better than her big forehand.
Coached by Sandeep Kirtane, Rutuja took to tennis at her parents' behest at age nine. Two years later, she won her first tournament. "It made my parents believe in me and they began to put my name for more tournaments."
Rutuja won her first ITF Grade-5 tournament in Indore last year and has been runner-up in two more.
Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters changed the face of tennis when they ushered in the era of physical dominance. To succeed, one first needs to be an athlete and then a tennis player. Rutuja agrees. "I need to improve my fitness and mental strength. If these let me down, I will lose.”
On court, she has been trying to improve under the watchful eyes of fitness trainer Mohan Pardeshi. Nutrition is another important aspect, and Rutuja makes sure she keeps a watch on her diet.
There have been instances when lack of sponsorship has caused a talented youngster to quit. With tennis gaining popularity in India, some companies have taken a step forward by giving travel money to young talent.
Rutuja receives a sponsorship from Bharat Forge while Babolat and Adidas take care of her equipment and clothing, respectively. Though it may not be enough, a start has been made.
Despite making her presence felt at the Hardcourt Nationals (she is one of the youngest finalists), Rutuja's hunger is not satisfied. She wants more. And if she does manage to overcome Isha in Saturday's final, the achievement will be added to her resume.
It's Vishnu v Yuki
The men's final will witness the top two seeds battle for the title and a prize purse of R1.5 lakh. While Vishnu Vardhan defeated wildcard Mohit Mayur Jayaprakash 6-3, 6-3, Yuki Bhambri got the better of Saketh Myneni 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.