During my first visit to AITA Coaches Workshop (6th) in Goa, I got a chance to meet a humble, confident & accomplished, the only Indian ITF Level 3 women coach – Radhika Tulpule Kanitkar.
Radhika has been one of the top prospect of women’s tennis in India and has also been a member of Indian Fed Cup Team. Taking up coaching, shas been a traveling with Asian ITF Junior Teams. She is the recipient of the Shiv Chhatrapati award in 1999-2000. In addition, she has also won the Pune International Marathon Trust’s best sportswoman award for 2000, ”Pune Ki Asha” award in 1998 and the ”Tulja Bhavani” award in 2001. We had a quick chat on her tennis life and beyond.
TennisJunction India – First of all a great “well done’ for the fantastic presentation that you did on things to consider while coaching a male vs. a female player. You must have put in a lot of effort.
Radhika – Thanks. And yes I had to work quite a bit for this as it was my first presentation in front of such a large and eminent audiences including ITF Development Officer and Dr. Vece Paes. Although growing up as a female player and then coach myself, I had all in mind but it was not easy to put them on a paper with all supporting facts.
TennisJunction India – So, how this love for tennis started for you?
Radhika – Contrary to the general starting age of 4-5, I started tennis at age of 9 from Deccan Gymkhana Club, Pune. My family has been very sports loving. Grandfather, Vitthal Tulpule played cricket and was president of MCA (Maharashtra Cricket Association). My father and my elder brother used to play tennis in that club and hence it was an automatic transition for me. I used to play Table Tennis earlier as I was inspired by my uncle, Ajay Tulpule, who was a National Level TT Player. However, the outdoor feel of tennis always attracted me and once I started playing Tennis, it was no turning back for me.
TennisJunction India – What kind if struggle you went through taking up tennis that late?
Radhika – It went very well. In just one year of tennis, my then coach, Prof. V. N. Kamat, realized the potential in me and advised my parents to let me compete in the various junior tournaments. And soon I was the winner of Pune Open Under-10 Tournament. That win gave me a launching pad and since then I was able to hold no. 1 position in all age categories (U-10, U-12, U-14 and Under-16). I believe I had some special skills to be a tennis player. Drop Shot – One of the difficult shot even today in women’s tennis was a key weapon in my armory.
TennisJunction India – How would you sum up you career? Did you reach the level you wanted to?
Radhika – Claiming the no. 1 positions in India gave me a boost to turn a pro. However, the Pro-level was a total level altogether. That was the real tennis and what I had been playing so far was not even closer to that level. I took on the challenge head-on and worked hard to get into that league. My biggest achievement as a junior has been to reach main draw of Australian Open in 2000 where in I lost to 8th seed in first round. And as a pro, there is nothing like playing for your country. So, I cherish my participation in the Fed Cup in 2000-2002. My topmost ranking has been 473 in singles and 438 in doubles.
TennisJunction India – So what made you quit tennis when you were in supreme form?
Radhika – The one and only one reason – Injury. I got tennis elbow in 2002 and it got so worse that I had to take a cortisone shot. I had to be out of tennis for about 7-8 months. I tried to come back after injury and managed to reach the finals of few events but the sheer fright of reoccurrence of the painful Tennis Elbow did not let me enjoy my game. Since the day I lift the racket, I have always been playing for the love of the game. I had in mind that the day when I stop enjoying I will stop playing.
TennisJunction India – Oh, that is a sad end to a success story. Who all do you contribute your success as a player to?
Radhika – To my parents, who supported me at every moment throughout my career. And to my coach, mentor and a friend Mr. Balachandran (Balu), who has been a pillar throughout my career – be it as a player or a tennis coach. Even today, not only he guides me to make right decisions but also support me in my decisions.
TennisJunction India – After a short stint of career as a Tennis-pro, was coaching a obvious choice for you?
Radhika – Not really. I love travelling and did a course in Tourism from IATA in order to pursue it as my career after tennis. However, it did not work well considering the minimal salary one could earn from that. And then I switched to what I love the most – Tennis and have been doing pretty well so far.
TennisJunction India – What are your view on women tennis in India? Why there is a huge gap between our no. 1 Sania and other top players?
Radhika – With no offence to other players, Sania really has some special skills that made hear reach at this level. Yes, she got the right support and training but she wouldn’t have reached at this level without an excellent level of tennis proficiency.
There are 2 major things that can help other players move up the ladder:
TennisJunction India – What are your aspirations after being a tennis coach?
Radhika – Well , I want to be the Fed Cup coach for India. And am very keen to teach our Indian coaches the practical and the correct way of teaching tennis right from the grass root level in order to improve the level of Indian tennis in future through coaches education. Sports is in my blood. I wish to turn to be a serious golfer after my contribution to tennis in future. Right now, I play golf for leisure and fun.
TennisJunction India – Since you are travelling with ITF Junior Team, what differences do you see between the European and the Indian players. How can we improve on that?
Radhika – There is big difference in the fitness levels of the Europeans and the Indian girls. Most of the European junior circuit is played on Red Clay Courts and playing on competing on those courts help players develop their strength, fitness, and endurance. Also, I firmly believe that the Tennis specific training has to start for Indian players from an early age.
TennisJunction India – Do you think that having a female coach for women players be advantageous? What has been your experience as a player?
Radhika – Definitely yes, it helps and specially at juniors stage. Sending female coaches with female players can help in 3 ways – Firstly, the females know how girls think, act and interpret making it easier to communicate with each other. Secondly, parents are more comfortable sending female players with female coaches. And also the cost of travel is reduced as room sharing can happen as both are females. I travelled with a male coach all the time if not alone, the males tend to react things differently which can affect the female mind , but my travel with Balu sir has been a very good learning experience for me and I have gained a lot from it.
TennisJunction India – Any feedback on TennisJunction India?
Radhika – Honestly speaking, I haven’t gone through your portal yet. However, whatever I heard from other coaches and players and also considering your strong intent of promoting tennis awareness & culture, I appreciate your efforts.
as published on Tennis Junction : http://www.tennisjunction.in/india/others/interviews/275-interview-radhika-tulpule-kanitkar.html