The new crowned National tennis Champion, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who is keen on breaking into the top 250, discusses his strategies for the future

Two title triumphs separated by a little more than two weeks; the first, his maiden National tennis championship and the second, an ITF Futures triumph in Mumbai. Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan is a happy man.

A craving for more is clearly evident through the length of the chat. However, for now, the 24-year-old Chennai lad prefers to savour his latest success and sounds content. “It was a big relief to win. I am happy with my performance,” he says.

It didn’t look great not so long ago. At the Gandhinagar ITF Futures in July, Jeevan twisted his knee and in August, suffered a stomach tear in Iran. “The injuries weren’t very serious. But I still needed rest. I didn’t play any tournament for close to five weeks. It was important to stay healthy.” Stay healthy he did, winning the nationals in the most ruthless of fashions — dropping just a single set.

Jeevan is currently ranked 397 in the world. At the end of last year, he was on 658. He is candid enough to admit that it doesn’t require exceptional talent to stay somewhere around 500. “With a few good chances and a few good draws, it was possible and I just took those chances,” he says.

However, he feels that it’s the next stage, breaking into the top 250, that’s tougher. “The ITFs can get you to 400. For the next level, you need the $35,000, $50,000 and higher Challenger tournaments. These are the doorsteps to the next rung of ATP tournaments.”

So what is the next step forward? “A Challenger in India will be of great help,” he says. “A first or a second round victory at the Challenger will give one almost the same number of points that a tournament victory in the ITF gives.”

He opines that in the ITFs held in India, Indians tend to do well. ““Stats do suggest that,” he says. “Sriram [Balajee], Saketh [Myneni], Sanam [Singh] have all done well to win titles at home. So why not in Challengers at home?”

A graduate in History from the University of Washington, Jeevan credits his coaches there for helping him better his shot selection and handle pressure. “The coaches were of great help. Also, it’s very different there. There are a lot more people watching you and you just don’t play for yourself. That makes you more eager to play and it’s a lot of fun and I learnt a lot.”

Jeevan is a left hander and it’s not surprising that he idolises Rafael Nadal. When quizzed if he tries some of the things that the Spaniard does, he laughs. “I am 5’8” and he is 6’1”. So I can’t possibly do the things he does,” he says. “But I can relate to him and his strokes. He fights hard and is a great role model.”

During leisure his activities include watching TV shows, movies and following the fortunes of Arsenal Football Club. But the punishing schedule — currently he is in Pune, fancying his chances in yet another ITF tournament — makes sure that he doesn’t spend much time on these.

Does he mind? “Well...I spend almost 20 weeks a year training at the Schuttler Waske Tennis University in Germany. Another 25 weeks on the circuit abroad. You have to give your life. Else it’s no use playing.”