CHENNAI: Vishnu Vardhan has seen better days. Back in 2012, he was ranked World No 180 and even partnered Leander Paes at the London Olympics. But then, tendonitis of the right knee happened. It burned his fledgling wings. Still, he endured. Languishing currently at 867 in the world, the Secunderabad-based player hasn’t lost hope — not yet.
Vishnu’s journey takes him to Karnataka this week for the $10,000 Mandya Open. The May 18-23 ITF Futures event, where he is seeded third, presents a welcome challenge of the relatively gentler kind. World No 611 Antoine Escoffier of France is the top seed, while 679-ranked VM Ranjeet, from Tamil Nadu, is seeded second. “It’s not often that one is seeded in the top three despite being ranked outside the top 700. I hope I can take advantage,” he says.
Since 2012, Vishnu hasn’t played a full schedule of tournaments. Instead of 25 events, he’s been part of about 13-15 annually. But with 18 international tournaments taking place in India this year, there are plenty of points on offer if he can remain injury-free. “Physically I’m fine, but don’t want to push my body too far. I’ve only been fully fit since September last year. This year, I’ve played two consecutive Challengers followed by two successive Futures, so I’m on the right track.”
However, lack of playing has taken a hit on his ranking. Fewer number of events also gives him less of a margin for error — hardly enough gains to move up rapidly; losses that ensure steep falls. Even so, with new trainer Mohammad Lateef on his team since the last nine months, the 27-year-old feels that physical conditioning exercises have helped immensely. “I’m happy to be able to compete at any level. It took a while, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that I need to wait this one out,” the two-time Asian Games medallist adds.
Thankfully, ONGC continues to sponsor most of his tournaments in India and abroad. They have not let him down in his time of need. “They’ve been there for me through thick and thin. In a country where players struggle to find sufficient support, it’s not something one sees too often.”
In his spare time, Vishnu has managed to set up an online store — tennishub.in — to bring gear and equipment to players and fans nationwide. It seems to be gaining in prominence, and hopefully, so will he.
Turned Pro: 2008
Coach: CV Nagaraj
Highest singles ranking: 262
Current singles ranking: 867
Mandya Open Seedings
1. Antoine Escoffier (Fra)
2. VM Ranjeet
3. Vishnu Vardhan
4. Karunoday Singh
5. Sasikumar Mukund