Leaving behind injury struggles, Saketh Myneni sets sights on achieving smaller goals in 2019

For a player who has had to grapple with injuries as Saketh Myneni has, mental fortitude is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the game.

Anuradha Santhanam November 28, 2018 20:02:17 IST
Leaving behind injury struggles, Saketh Myneni sets sights on achieving smaller goals in 2019

One of three Indians in the Top 125 of the men's singles rankings, Saketh Myneni is coming off serious injury struggles this year. He performed well at the ATP Bengaluru Open, finishing runner-up at the event, but couldn't keep the good form at the ATP Pune Challenger, where he lost in the first round.

"I'm trying to play fewer tournaments," he says. "I'd been playing a lot of qualifiers, and that taxed my injuries significantly," Myneni told Firstpost. 

Leaving behind injury struggles Saketh Myneni sets sights on achieving smaller goals in 2019

Saketh Myneni lost to compatriot Prajnesh Gunneswaran in the final of the Bengaluru Open. PTI/Shailendra Bhojak

Conscientious planning is the key, the former India No 1 suggests, in playing tournaments especially so close together. "I've been planning really carefully because of the injuries I've had to deal with in the past few years. My foot injury started off as a small issue and took a really long time to heal. I had a lot of lost time as a result, but I made up for that time with physical exercise, rehab, and more."

He is wary and guarded about his return. "I don't want to push too hard. It's all about knowing your body. Yeah, maybe I could play one more week of tournaments now, but then I'll be out in the longer run because I'm pushing my body to where it shouldn't be," Myneni says.

If anyone knows about what it's like to hit the big time and then have injuries hit you, it's Saketh Myneni. The 31-year-old hit his career-highest ranking of 137 in 2016, and in the same year, qualified for the main draw of the US Open singles.

That was when the foot injury he speaks of hit and completely sidelined the progress he had made. "It was definitely difficult but you can't let that get to you. I did want to play more. But what I thought would be a shorter recovery time turned into an injury that was more serious and took longer to rehabilitate than we had initially thought," he says

Myneni spent that time in practice, and with his family. "Family is the biggest support system anyone can have. Was I disappointed I wasn't able to play as many tournaments as I'd have liked? For sure. And that was a cloud. But the silver lining was that I was able to get that time with my family, meet my friends, and that's important too."

For a player who has had to grapple with injuries as Myneni has, mental fortitude is perhaps one of the most important aspects of the game. "You can't afford to get complacent, don't celebrate your wins too much, but also don't wallow in the losses," he says. "Either one will cause you to stagnate or worse, drop and not be beneficial to you in the long run."

Myneni, who is coming back to full fitness, says the goals are set in the smaller and larger picture. "Right now, I'm aiming to play 18 tournaments a year if my body permits. That's my ideal zone and something that I think is a definite goal I have for the near future. I don't want to throw my body everywhere. My emphasis, I think, should and has always been on playing good quality matches more than anything else."

Now, though, Myneni thinks, is one of the best times for Indian tennis. "Two Indians were in the finals of an ATP tournament," he says. "That's always a big thing. And there are three Indians in the top 125 - it's a good, strong time for the game in our country."

Myneni believes that these tournaments are also crucial in developing tennis in India as a whole. "The more tournaments we do well at, the more tournaments India can then host, and that is very important in terms of India getting more and more tennis exposure and finding new talent. That exposure is very, very important in the development of the sport in our country, and I think it is a phenomenal start," he says.

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