Having played in the US collegiate circuit for six years, Saketh Myneni returned to India to catch up on ranking points. That was in September 2011. What had struck then was the smile. Myneni always had a smile on his face. Easy-going and happy, the lanky player always found time for everyone. Fast forward to 2014 and an Asian Games gold medal later, that demeanour hasn't changed.
"It's my nature I guess," smiles the soon-to-be 27-year-old. After a long practice session in the sun, Myneni cooled off in the air-conditioned lounge at DLTA. "College exposed me, to be myself. I learnt never to say no," says the University of Alabama graduate.
After Myneni and Sania Mirza won the mixed doubles gold at Incheon, for sometime the world no. 453 found it hard to believe what they had accomplished. "I can't describe that feeling. It was so incredible with the national anthem playing. When Sania suggested we take 'selfies' on the podium, it just captured that moment," he laughs shaking his head. So was there any pressure on him, it being his maiden Games? "Well, it was there before the event started when I found out I was paired with Sania!"
Back home for a short break before the two Challengers in Indore and Pune, Myneni is a little surprised with everyone hailing him as the 'golden boy'. But now, it's back to the grind. "I lost about 200 ranking points having not played for two months earlier in the year because of a viral. Otherwise, this year was great. The first confidence boost came in the Chennai Open (where he reached the semis of the doubles event with Karen Khachanov). Then Davis Cup happened (he's unbeaten in the three rubbers that he's played against Korea and Chinese Taipei) and now the Incheon medals (he also won a silver in the men's doubles with Sanam Singh)," Myneni says. "The only thing I have to do now is stay fit for the next season."
Though his focus is singles, he's played doubles alongside and pocketed five titles this year. "The opportunities I got this year were all due to my singles rankings. The aim now is to garner points to break into the top-100," Myneni says determined to end this season on a strong note.