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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Curry, rice, everything spice: Tennis’ international saplings grit and grow in Pune

Foreign under-18 players competing at the MSLTA-ITF Junior Grade 3 U-18 tennis championship are adjusting to Indian courts, food and weather.

pune Updated: Dec 03, 2019 16:30 IST
Oumar Aga
Oumar Aga
Hindustan Times, Pune
Russia’s Maria Sholokhova is only eating bread and rice at her hotel.
Russia’s Maria Sholokhova is only eating bread and rice at her hotel. (HT PHOTO)

PUNE At the Deccan Gymkhana tennis court seeds sown at the grassroots of international tennis are sprouting. One of these will grow into a billowing oak that will shade all else at the top of the tennis food chain.

Until then, it is a hard grind. The words “top seed” have a completely different meaning for the girls and boys, all under-18, competing at the MSLTA-ITF Junior Grade 3 U-18 tennis championship.

Girls’ top-seed, Maria Sholokhova, hails from Russia. Sholokhova beat her singles opponent, Bhakti Parwani, in round one. Sholokhova is one of 13 foreign players in Pune for the tournament.

For the 15-year-old Russian, this is her first experience on Indian soil. “Back in Sochi, we only practice and play on grass courts. I have played on hard surfaces too, but the court here in Pune seems to be faster than anything I have played on before.

Coming from Sochi, where temperatures do not touch the 30 degrees Celsius mark, Sholokhova is adjusting to the Pune mid-day glow. “It is tough to play under the sun with so much heat, but this is a challenge faced by many, so I am looking forward to cope and play my best game,” she said.

As for food, Sholokhova has decided just to eat rice and bread at her hotel, losing body weight steadily. “I have a small appetite and ever since I got here, I have only eaten small portions of food. Indian cuisine is quite spicy for me, so I am just eating bread and rice,” she said.

This is in drastic difference to the number eight seed in the boys section, Japan’s Daisuke Inagawa. He loves Indian spice and curries and has no problem downing the food with naans, in much the same way he had no problem downing his first-round opponent, India’s Dhruv Tangri.

Japan’s Daisuke Inagawa loves Indian spice and curries.
Japan’s Daisuke Inagawa loves Indian spice and curries. ( HT PHOTO )

Inagawa said, “I absolutely love Indian food. Every evening I go to the hotel and order only Indian food. I love the naan bread they serve here. We do not get that in Japan, so I want to eat as much as I can.”

“I managed to win in what was really a close encounter. The pace of the court really threw me off-guard and I committed a lot of mistakes. I usually practice on hard and clay courts, but this is the faster than the courts I practiced on, in Japan,” said the 17-year-old.

“At night it is pleasant and cool, but during the day it is too hot. The climate is not this harsh in Japan, but we have to get used to it now,” added Inagawa.

The teenagers at the tournament are yet to go sightseeing in the city, but do plan to explore. For now though, it is all about round two.