With the National junior championship adding to the titles she has already won, young Snehadevi Reddy is keen on making a mark in the women’s circuit in the days to come

A five-foot-one-inch frame. Diminutive for an up-and-coming tennis player, one would say, in an age where burgeoning ground-strokes and brute power are staples. But packed into it are tremendous zeal, a relentless drive to win, and a fine ball-striking ability.

“I never think of losing,” she says. “I just want to win and am always hungry.” This is the 16-year-old Tamil Nadu player Snehadevi Reddy, who recently won the adidas National Junior (under-18) Championship held in Chennai to add to her under-16 title and the under-14, 16 and 18 doubles trophies.

The current year has seen Snehadevi scale new heights. She won the Asian Youth Championship held in New Delhi in April, overcoming a tear in her serving shoulder. She then played in the qualifying rounds of the junior French Open, her first ever Grand Slam event. But the year was also witness to her suffering a shattering personal loss when she lost her mother in May. This forced her to withdraw from all the succeeding tournaments, including The Championships at Wimbledon.

Emerging from the gloom

But three months on, she has battled admirably, riding on the highs, to emerge from the gloom, a stronger person and a better player. “The Nationals victory was good,” she says. “It was my first (tournament) after the withdrawals and it was great to start playing again and winning.”

Right from age five, when she first started playing tennis, she has had constant support from her father. A case in point is when he asked her to choose NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) and place tennis at the forefront.

“I was a sportsman myself,” says her father Shankar Reddy. “I was into shooting. But I couldn’t afford to buy a rifle and, therefore, couldn’t pursue the sport. That drove me to encourage my daughter to become a sportswoman.”

More recently, the Sanchez Casal Academy, where Snehadevi trained last year, the 4Slam Tennis Academy in Barcelona, where she spent a good part of this year, and the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA), have all backed her. It is to these institutions that Snehadevi attributes the improvement in her game, her fitness and endurance.

“The stints in Spain have definitely helped. They are all clay courts and Spain is known for that. The coaches there really helped me. Milos Raonic’s former coach Galo Blanco is one among those. Everyone there supported me a lot and the TNTA too.”

Juniors till year-end

Though she now aspires to play in the women’s circuit, it will be the juniors at least till the year-end. She will compete in eight more tournaments the world over, including the Dunlop Orange Bowl Tennis Championships in the U.S., a prestigious championship which Yuki Bhambri won in 2008. This will help her garner enough points to get into the top 50 in the junior rankings (she is currently No. 79) and earn her a spot in the main draw of all the four Grand Slams in 2014.

But her long-term goal is to build on her successes at the junior level and counter the ultimate challenge of doing well in the women’s circuit. This pursuit will start early next year and will go hand-in-hand with the junior Grand Slams.

“The juniors will give me good experience. It’s a stage, a kind of starting block. But what happens in the women’s field is the most important thing. Yes, every tournament is big and I do want to win all of them, but the women’s circuit is completely different and eventually that’s what matters” she says.