Tennis

Conquering the courts

H Madhusudhan remembers the day he lost his legs. On May 30, 2008, he was on a crowded train to Gauribidanur, standing on the foot board with a dozen other passengers. As the train pulled into Rajanakunte Station, he turned around to wade his way into the compartment, at which point he felt a push. Madhusudhan fell through the gap between train and platform and the wheels sliced his legs clean above the knee.

He was rushed to Yelahanka Railway Hospital, later to Yelahanka Government Hospital and finally to Victoria Hospital. “The first few days, it didn’t sink in. It took me a week to realise I didn’t have my legs anymore. I was 13 at that time. I did not think much about what I would do but everyone said my life was effectively over.”

A decade on, Madhusudhan realises that life was only just beginning after the accident. He is now a hopeful, young wheelchair tennis player, steadily making his way up. He first played the sport in 2011 but it is just a couple of years ago that he began training like a professional athlete: three days a week on the court, two in the gym and one in the pool. Recent results – a first-round exit in the Sri Lanka Open (ITF Futures Series) last February; a second-round loss at the Tabebuia Open in Bengaluru in December – may not seem encouraging but a process has only just been put in place. He works hard at his game and relentlessly so; success, he believes, is only a matter of time.

Conquering the courts

For two years after the tragedy, Madhusudhan did not go to school. “I hardly went out,” he says. At his mother’s behest, he completed his SSLC Examination via correspondence. He then enrolled in a graphics-design course at the Association of People with Disability (APD), where he was introduced to wheelchair tennis.

He travelled to the Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) stadium in Cubbon Park on weekends until he could not afford the auto fare. He did not play for over a year until T Seetharam, an official with Paralympic Wheelchair Tennis Federation of India, took it upon himself to drive the player to and from training.

There is no denying though that wheelchair tennis in India suffers from a lack of support and organisation. There are only a handful of tournaments every year and players struggle to find courts to train in.

This year, the Indiranagar Club allowed him to use its premises free of charge. Madhusudhan also found support from Elvis Joseph of the Bangalore School Sports Foundation, who takes care of his training needs and accompanies him to tournaments. Help came from the APD too. “Rajini Radhakrishnan, insisted I get a degree and funded my education from pre-university through graduation,” says Madhusudhan. “Last July, I completed a BCom degree with 82.5 per cent.”

A couple of months ago, he found work with a chartered accountant – a friend of Joseph’s – in Fraser Town. His mother, who used to work as a housekeeper in an apartment block, has quit her job since. Last year, the Himalaya Drug Company offered its support, promising to fund his travel to tournaments entirely. His mother bought him a scooter with her savings; it is a relief, he admits.

It is an education to watch Madhusudhan play tennis. He is forced to strap himself to his wheelchair, for there is little left of his legs; it is a distinct disadvantage at tournaments. “It is difficult for you to twist your body and balance yourself in the seat when your stumps extend till the knee or beyond. I have fallen off the wheelchair multiple times. I have to adjust my weight carefully. If I stretch forward, I will topple over,” he says.

It does not worry him, though. He does not wish to complain about anything. “As a child, I was very active. After the accident, for four years I did not want to talk to people. But in college, one of my teachers changed my life. ‘You should have died in the accident,’ he told me. ‘But God saved you for a reason. Identify that purpose and fulfil it.' And that is how I live my life now.”

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 10:41:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/conquering-the-courts/article22729985.ece

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