In the final of the 69th Trivandrum Open Tennis Championship held at Trivandrum Tennis Club here a week ago, local boy Suraj H defeated top-seeded hot prospect Jeffy Jacob to lift the senior crown.
The title comes as a shot in the arm for the 19-year-old who is currently making a shift from the junior level to competing with the senior professionals in the game.
“This is a very challenging phase for me, but one that is inevitable if I have to progress further in my career,” says Suraj, for whom that phase has so far progressed smoothly.
Son of former SAI-LNCPE principal S S Hasrani, it was certain that Suraj would end up doing sports. “I only had to choose which sport to play. When I was enrolled for tennis at the age of seven at LNCPE, I instantly fell in love with the game,” he says.
Since then, Suraj has won state championships in 2011 and 2013 and has also won the All-India Tennis Association’s (AITA) Talent Series a couple of times each in under-12, under-14, under-16 and under-18 categories.
In that run, Suraj was the 11th highest ranked player in the under-12 level and got the better of some of the most highly rated tennis talents in the country including Sumit Nagal and I B Akshay.
Suraj feels that tennis is the most challenging of sports both mentally and physically. “Sometimes when you are one-on-one with your opponent in a singles game, you feel lonely. It is the support you get from your friends and family and the mental toughness that gets you going,” he says.
Suraj, who still trains at LNCPE under the Sports Authority of India scheme, also hones his skills at the Trivandrum Tennis Club (TTC) where he does the evening sessions four days a week.
At TTC, he is in good company competing with Jeffy and J S Arun Raj day in and day out which he feels will only improve his game. “We have good competition in the state and the infrastructure here is also good,” says Suraj.
“Suraj is a consistent performer and very aggressive. He has a very strong running forehand shot while he has to improve his serve,” says Biju Mani, who has coached Suraj from the start.
Though he might not be winning every match against the seniors, Suraj says he will continue to take one match at a time and improve. “Results do not matter. What matters now is gaining experience,” he says.