Four years ago, Sansita Nandakumar won an open tennis tournament for 10-year-olds at the Triangle Tennis Trust courts in Chennai after beating many boys.

“Some of the boys whom she beat are now playing in the men’s section here in Kochi,” said her mother Deepa.

Sansita does not play in boys tournaments these days, there aren’t any too in her age group, but she is still stirring up a quite a sensation.

The 14-year-old from Coimbatore created a commotion at the Lotus Trophy AITA all-India ranking tournament here the other day when she packed off the women’s top-seed Prarthana Pratap rather comfortably at 6-2, 6-2 in the pre-quarterfinals. She sailed past her other opponents and marched to Friday’s final quite confidently.

And this is her maiden women’s tournament.

“I want to become like Sania one day and then go much further. But I want to perform well in the ITF junior circuit first,” said the under-14 junior national champion on Thursday. Incidentally, Belgian Justine Henin is her idol.

Hard road

Sansita has a long and hard road to travel but she has begun working sincerely towards reaching her goals, one step at a time. She now trains at the Mahesh Bhupathi Tennis Academy in Bangalore and only rushes to her school, the Vidhya Niketan in Coimbatore, for exams. She now travels around the world and has also begun playing the ITF junior under-18 circuit.

“She reached the under-14 semifinals in a tournament in Netherlands last year but fell down and hurt herself while cycling a day before the match. Still, she put up a fight and lost closely,” said her mother.

And balancing tennis and academics does not seem to be a problem.

Early bird

Sansita is an early bird. She started at six and with her dad R. Nandakumar, who now runs a tennis academy in Coimbatore, coaching her, the little girl raced through the sport’s age group ladder quickly. She won the under-12 national and then the under-14 national title twice.

“I’ve been training at the Mahesh Bhupathi Academy for the last one and half years and my service and forehand have improved a lot

“Sansita has a long way to go but she is very hard-working and mentally very strong,” said P. Srinath, her MBTA coach. “She has a strong baseline game and is very aggressive.”

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