CV Nagraj narrowly missed the Dronacharya Award this year. But there was some consolation and comfort when the All India Tennis Association (AITA) recognized his valuable services as coach for producing no less than four Davis Cuppers to bestow him with Dilip Bose Lifetime Achievement Award at the recently held National Coaches Workshop at Kolkata.
“It is a huge honour for me,’’ said the 54-year-old. As one enters the modest The School of Power Tennis (TSPT) coaching clinic at RRC grounds, Secunderabad, there is a list of players who brought name and fame to their hard-working coach. Prominent among them are four Davis Cuppers – Sushil Narla (1997), Punna Vishal (2004), J Vishnuvardhan (2010), Saketh Myneni (2014). Apart from them there are few other players who went on to play in the junior Davis Cup. Incidentally, all the four Davis Cuppers and Suresh Krishna are former National champions. Among the women players, National champions Kala Bhuvana and Sowjanya Bhavisetty, who have won ITF tournaments.
Tennis had been his passion. He left his job at HAL to and started TSPT in 1991. This was the beginning of a new journey. It was struggle in the beginning since he found it difficult to find his feet in a totally new environment. “It was a big challenge. But I was determined to make a mark and I had a vision to take the players to the next level,” he said. Today TSPT is regarded as one of the premier academies of tennis in the country. It stresses on tennis programmes which are both inspirational and educational.
Conscious that fitness is key to growth in the game, Nagraj pursed post graduation in physical education from Anamalai University and then obtained certificate from National Institute of Sports.
“I ensure that basics of every player is good. My emphasis is more on young players and I also spend more time with them. If the basics are sound then naturally you will be good at the top level. Fitness also plays a vital role in a player’s career,’’ he said, who personally oversees the warming up session and pre-game practice and drills.
Nagraj would spend at least 12 hours on the court, from morning at 6 am. He has six clay courts at RRC and three at Bhavan’s College Sainikpuri. The coach makes it a point that every player gets attention. “It is important to deal with difficult situations that a tennis player faces professionally . So I make it sure that the training comes through caring nature, fun-filled and high paced training environment. This has helped me to make the players play with more intensity.’’
Nagraj’s favourite pupil Vishnuvardhan, the London Olympian, too agrees. “As a coach, Nagraj sir has got a very good temperament. I am lucky to have someone like him as a coach,’’ said Vishnuvardhan. Incidentally, Vishnu won the Asian Games mixed doubles silver medal with Sania Mirza in the 2010 Asian Games.
Twenty-seven-year-old Saketh Myneni went one step further when he clinched gold in mixed doubles (with Sania) and silver in men’s doubles (Sanam Singh) in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.
Vishnuvardhan joined Nagraj’s camp when he was seven years old. “He is a India-made product. Vishnu has worked his way to the top. Though he is recovering from a trouble knee, he will soon or later get back to his form. I am sure he has the ability to break into top 100 but that needs of loads of hard work,’’ said Nagraj.