Going to college... for world class tennis training facilities
Pune: Moving to the US for college in 2019 was not pre-planned for Siddhant Banthia – it happened suddenly and now, he is a key part of the Wake Forest University team in North Carolina.
Banthia was recruited by a college programme – where varsity coaches send invites to players based on their junior rankings. Banthia was a top junior player.
Training for three hours, fitness for one hour and four hours for academics (business finance), Banthia has a packed schedule. If it was not for the Covid-19 lockdown, the Pune-based player would be in the middle of the US college tennis season. Right now, he is lockded down.
How training with the Wake Forest University team helped you as a player?
It is currently one of the best phases of my professional career, where I am getting to train in world-class training facilities under top coaches like Tony Bresky and Chris Eaton. It is a completely different environment from what we have in India. Actually there was a myth earlier in our country, that a player going to play US college tennis cannot be a good professional tennis player, but now it has changed. Currently we have many players who are now getting aware of the importance of training in top facilities.
What are the benefits of playing US college tennis?
You get to train with players from across the globe and the competitive level is very high. I am on a full scholarship programme where my food, stay and academic fees has been taken care of by the university. This helps a lot as you can solely focus on your game and training regularly with players from other countries helps physically.
What’s the process for college tennis players?
There are three divisions – Division 1, 2 and 3; based on their rankings coaches provide scholarships to players. Division 1 is top where most professional players come from. All the three divisions have different scholarships patterns.
What is the structure of the tournaments?
There are 150 teams in the Division 1 which are divided into different conferences. Our team, Wake Forest University falls under Atlantic Coast Conference. January to May, is the peak season for the tournaments.
Top 16 teams qualify for NCAA Indoor National Championship which takes place in January, while for the NCAA Outdoor National Championship top 32 teams qualify. (Teams with highest points from their conference qualify for these tournaments)
In these tournaments one team plays nine matches (three doubles; six singles); doubles match is of one set, while singles is of three. Winning two doubles matches gives you one point, while there is one point each for winning a singles match. Team wins the tie when they earn four points out of seven.
These two tournaments are like the Grand Slam of college tennis and one needs to fight hard to win
Know the player
Name: Siddhant Banthia
Team: Wake Forest University team
Coaches: Tony Bresky, assisted by Chris Eaton
Titles won by team: 2018 - NCAA champion, Indoor National Champion and ACC conference champions; Ranked No 1; 2019: NCAA runner-up, Indoor national runner-up and ACC conference champions. Ranked no.2