Her game may not match her impressive height at the moment, but make no mistake, Poojashree Venkatesh will definitely stand tall some day, figuratively speaking.
The six-foot plus Mysore girl is the third best Indian woman tennis player behind Sania Mirza (74) and Ankita Bhambri (393).
Ranked 459, the 19-year-old Poojashree tried to make a jump to the next level, by competing in the $25,000 and $50,000 ITF women’s circuit tournaments in Kazakhstan recently, but success eluded her grasp. She was beaten early, though she did fight in one of the matches in three sets.
“I did lose first round, but I learnt a lot, training with those girls. They fought for every point with the same intensity through the match,” says Poojashree, on her tough experience.
Having won a $10,000 tournament in Islamabad and reached the final of another in Kazakhstan, it was natural that Poojashree wanted to test her improvement at the higher level.
“I had also reached the quarterfinals of a $25,000 tournament in Uzbekistan and won a round in the $50,000 event in Delhi,” recalls Poojashree.
Good training stint
The good training stint at the Nick Bollettieri Centre in Florida in the early part of the season, had actually opened her eyes, to the reality of modern tennis.
“I am working hard on my first serve. I am hitting it a lot better. You have to serve strong to survive at the higher level. If you can hold serve, it is half the battle won,” she opines.
Of course, you need to have weapons. Poojashree envies the world class forehand of Sania Mirza, but has a bent forearm that technically stops her from unleashing furious groundstrokes.
“It is not easy to change your game. Am consciously making the corrections, but it is a slow process,” she says.
Being part of the Commonwealth Games programme and gaining considerably from the training camps with Jaidip Mukherjea and Fed Cup coach Enrico Piperno, Poojashree wants to probe the possibilities of more specific training stints with coaches like Bob Brett, who had worked wonders on Sania’s game.
“I had seen Maria Sharapova, Tommy Haas, Ana Ivanovic etc., train at the Bollettieri Centre. We were playing matches every evening with different players, including those in the top-150 every day and that taught a lot to us,” she says.
Being part of the core group of trainees for the Commonwealth Games ensures that Poojashree gets at least her travel taken care of by the government fund. Of course, she has been supported by the GVK Group which continues to give her flight tickets whenever required, apart from the ticket to her father Venkatesh to accompany her.
With the height she has, Poojashree can really tower in the world of women’s tennis, given her hunger for success and intensity of approach. However, she needs world class guidance and training to realise her full potential.
She reached a career-best rank of 39 in the ITF junior circuit, but lacked the strong basics to capitalise on her chances when she competed in the junior Grand Slams at the US Open in 2007, followed by the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon last year.
Poojashree may be learning the basics late, but she is learning fast. She asserted herself in the $10,000 ITF women’s event in Delhi by making the final, and will be competing in three $10,000 ITF women’s tournaments over the next three weeks in Thailand. She would be tough to beat at this level at this stage.