'I am on par with the top Indian players'
CHENNAI: Rahul Rastogi runs a successful shoe-shine machine company in Mumbai. Rahul wants his son Karan to shine in his chosen profession - tennis. And Karan has been working hard to realise his father's dreams.
But the 19-year-old knows it will take time and he needs lot of luck. "I have had my share of ups and downs. But I am happy with the way my career has shaped up. My goal for 2006 is to improve my ranking to around 260-270. I will also try to play in the Grand Slam qualifying rounds next year," says Karan, currently ranked 353.
Does it not bother him that he is playing the 2006 Chennai Open doubles with a player (40-year-old Pat Cash) who is past his prime? "It doesn't bother me. He's a legend. Practising with him has been a big learning experience," says Karan. "He still hasn't lost his touch as he plays regularly in the senior tour."
The 17-year-old Karan left an impression in the Tata Open in 2004, though he went down fighting to an experienced Julian Knowle in the first round itself. In 2005 Chennai Open, Karan lost to the Swede Jonas Bjorkman in the first round after leading briefly in the first set. He entered both the tournaments as a wild card. But he wasn't offered one in the singles this time, though he got one in the doubles.
"When Ravi Krishnan, Managing Director, South Asia, IMG/TWI, asked me whether I would like to partner Cash, I was overwhelmed. I was happy that he agreed to play with me."
'Blessing in disguise'
Karan says it was good in a way that he lost in the first qualifying round of the 2006 Chennai Open. "That's how you learn where you stand. It was a blessing in disguise that I didn't get a wild card."
Karan, who is very much concerned about fitness, has undergone training at the Nick Bollietieri Academy recently. "The training helped me raise my fitness level. I have put on 10-11 pounds in the last eight months," says Karan, who is supported by International Management Group. "Besides, having a travelling coach in Sanjay Poddar has been of great help," Karan says.
The ATP tournament in Rotterdam in February will be the next big event for Karan. "The qualifying event for Rotterdam (he defeated Vivek Shokeen, Rohan Bopanna and Harsh Mankad) showed that I am on par with the top Indian players."