Nitten Kirrtane has been awarded the Dhyan Chand Award for his contribution towards sports. He will be presented the award in New Delhi on August 29.(Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)
Nitten Kirrtane has been awarded the Dhyan Chand Award for his contribution towards sports. He will be presented the award in New Delhi on August 29.(Ravindra Joshi/HT PHOTO)

Four decades of tennis...and Pune’s Nitten Kirrtane is still going strong

The ministry of youth affairs and sports has rewarded Kirrtane’s tennis journey of four decades by conferring on him the Dhyan Chand Award for his contribution towards sports
By Jigar Hindocha | Hindustan Times, Pune
UPDATED ON AUG 25, 2019 04:26 PM IST

Whether it is junior or senior circuit — one thing which Nitten Kirrtane has kept intact in his schedule is to give 100 per cent whenever he is on the court. It is the passion of getting better that has kept this 45-year old alive and kicking on tennis courts.

Kirrtane is one such name after Leander Paes (46) for whom age is just a number. He was India’s no.1 under-14 player in 1988 and now in 2019, he is still no.1 in senior rankings.

The ministry of youth affairs and sports has rewarded Kirrtane’s tennis journey of four decades by conferring on him the Dhyan Chand award for his contribution towards sports. He will be presented the award in New Delhi on August 29.

Kirrtane’s cousin Sandeep inspired him to take up tennis and staying near the Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts made his journey easy.

“Datta Shinde was my first tennis coach at Deccan Gymkhana and he always emphasised on wall practice and he used to make all of us to hit balls on wall,” said Kirrtane.

By competing in tournaments from under-10 age group, Kirrtane aimed to get in the finals and at the age of 15 he was selected by Batra Tennis centre where he was coached by Nandan Bal – former India Davis Cup coach and it turned out to be the first stepping stone for Kirrtane.

“I travelled a lot with the help of Batra Tennis centre and it helped me to get good International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior rankings,” said Kirrtane who represented Maharashtra for the first time in the under-14 age group category in 1986-87.

After being trained under Bal, Kirrtane never looked back.

Corporate sponsors missing

In those days, playing outside Pune involved spending a huge amount of money. Kirrtane managed to do it, but going abroad for training remained an unfulfilled dream. “Tennis is the costliest game and one cannot survive without corporate sponsors and the same happened with me and my brother Sandeep. We did not get the support. So, training six months outside the country was not possible and it was a major setback,” said Kirrtane.

Tough Period: 2005-2009

A life-threatening accident almost took tennis away from Kirrtane, but his self-belief and will power bought him back to the court. “I thought tennis was over for me with so many injuries, but I managed to put it back. I still have a rod in my right hand, but I am left handed and it helped me,” said Kirrtane, who continued playing at men’s circuit till 2013-2014 and then shifted to senior circuit.

Nitin Kirtane to Nitten Kirrtane

With things going completely haywire during 2005-2009, Kirrtane’s wife Rheeya, on the advice of family friend Swetta Jumaani, a numerologist, changed the spelling of her husband’s name. “Nitten was going through a tough time, so I opted to change his spelling and it has done wonders till date,” said Rheeya.

About Nitten Kirrtane

Age: 45

Date of Birth: March 4, 1974

Started playing tennis: At the age of 5

Favourite shot: Backhand slice

First coach: Datta Shinde

Inspiration: Michael Jordan – Basketball player

Most memorable moments so far on tennis courts:

1992: Emerging as runner-up in Junior Wimbledon Boys doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi

1996: Winner of first Men’s National Championship, Kolkata

1997: Selected for the Indian Davis Cup team

1998: Asian Games bronze medallist in Bangkok

2018: Winning silver medal at ITF Senior World Championship in Miami

2019: Being conferred with the Dhyan Chand Award

Most cherished moment off court:

Joy of seeing both my sons Arjun and Aaryan winning their first tennis titles in under-10 and under-8 age groups respectively.

Kirrtane’s routine

5:30 am: Wake up

6am to 8am: Yoga and stretching

8am to 9:15am: Tennis practice at Deccan Gymkhana tennis courts

9:30am to 1:30pm: Works as senior clerk in Central Railway at divisional railway manager secretariat, Pune division

1:30pm to 3:30pm: Rest

3:30 pm to 6pm: Tennis practice at Poona Club tennis courts

6pm to 9:30pm: Family time

9:30 pm: Bedtime

What is Dhyan Chand Award?

Dhyan Chand award is given to sportsperson for their contribution to sports during their life time. The award was instituted by the ministry of youth affairs and sports in 2002.

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