Tennisjunction team conducted an exclusive interview with Karan Rastogi - the less-talked about, great prospect for Indian tennis, the once no.4 junior in the world who had made the semifinals of the Australian Open junior event.
He was quite excited to know about our initiative and provided us more insight into a Tennis-Pro's life. Read on the full Interview below
|Player's Name:||Karan Rastogi
|Date of Birth:||October 8, 1986
|Plays:||Right-handed (two-handed backhand)|
|Started Playing At:
|Equipment:||Racquet - Head (Speed Youtek)|
Tj Team - Hi Karan. Thanks for taking the time out and sharing your experience with us.
Karan - Hi, this is ofcourse a pleasure. It feels good to hear that someone has taken this kind of an initiative. Good work.
Tj Team - Thanks for your wishes Karan. I hope your fans around the world would take this opportunity to know and follow you. So Karan, it seems playing tennis in India doesn’t seem to be the default choice. How did you get in?
Karan - Well said. I, however, started playing at 4 at Mumbai. My dad had a very big influence on me. He is very much into sports- played state levels in badminton and he put me into tennis at quite a young age. And once I started performing well in under-12, under-14 – Was once no. 1 in Asia, It was an easy decision to make tennis a career for me.
Tj Team - This means your family has had a big role in your career. Anyone else you would want to attribute your success too besides your hard work and dedication.
Karan - More than my hard word work and any one else’s support, I believe it is my parent’s struggle and dedication that has driven me into tennis. They have gone through a lot supporting me in my career. I still remember my mom getting up 5:30 in morning to take me for practice sessions and even tournaments. Supporting and giving me strength, confidence and motivation to do well. What they have done for me, I probably can never repay them.
Tj Team - While growing up in tennis, did you have any role model you looked up to while playing?
Karan - Pete Sampras. I always used to follow him, try to imitate his game and love watching him play.
Tj Team – So Karan, who have been your coaches.
Karan - Right now I am working with an australian coach in Mark Sophoulis. Before this, I was being coached by Sanjay Poddar, a famous Indian coach.
Tj Team – In the context of tournaments, which are your favourity ones.
Karan - Chennai Open - to me, is the biggest tournament in India. I believe everyone in India looks forward to seeing some of the best players around the world in action. I got to play against Rafael Nadal in the second round last year. Have played a couple of times and I think I did reasonably well.
At the international level, well, I would rate Wimbledon as one tournament that I look up to. Infact, Junior wimbledon is one tournament that is very special to me and is one thing that I will cherish throughout my life.
Tj Team – Do you compete regularly in the National tournaments?
Karan - Not regularly. Not that these are not important, but while playing a lot of ITF challengers and travelling around the world, it gets difficult to play in India. And in a pro-circuit one needs to focus more on International events as it impacts the rankings more.
Tj Team – Are you satisfied with the results you have achieved in your career so far?
Karan - More or less yes. There have been few ups and downs. Recently missed a lot of tennis as I was not playing for some 18 months. 2010 however, has been a successful year since my comeback and have done reasonably well reaching 450 rank from scratch. Things are looking fine and am playing tennis better than ever.
Tj Team – You just spoke of not playing for 18 months. This seems to be a long layoff. What had happenned. It surely would have been difficult to start from scratch again.
Karan - Yeah, I was out for a year and a half due to back injury. I had to get surgery done in Melbourne. I was ranked - 300 in world that time. During the injury, I tried to stay as positive as possible. Infact, I tried doing thing I could not do in days when I was playing. I encouraged living a normal life. Actually did what a normal 23 year old does - went out, met friends, had fun… I realized that there was life beyond tennis too.
Tj Team – So, did you lose your sharpness, your strength… anything during your injury? Are you more careful now in doing things.
Karan - I think I am playing the best tennis in my career and this year has gone pretty well. I am representing the country again, in the top 450 players in the world… I think I am peaking at the right time.
However, I lost my sponsor in those 18 months of injury period. Today I am without a sponsor.
TJ Team – Oh, that must be difficult. There seem to be many challenges for an Indian player to manage an elite sport like Tennis.
Karan - Yeah, but these things do happen. I have been pretty lucky with the sponsors till date. HDIL, DHSL in 2007 and then BCCI sponsored me in 2008. But it is not enough. We need a lot of support from corporates and bigger companies. And as I say, I am on my own today and it becomes very difficult.
For the younger players, it becomes moreso difficult as there is always a limit to which the parents can support. There is a lot of travelling involved.
But you know, its such a vicious cycle in India. You don’t get sponsors till you are playing well, when you need less money. And when you need support, that’s when you are trying to break into the top league and you are young, wanting to play a lot of tournaments and get points to get amongst the elite – when you have no sponsors.
Tj Team – So, how is AITA doing to help players grow? Any things that you suggest can be done better?
Karan - AITA is doing alright. One can’t blame them as they have limited resources and with in the limit they have done really great in last 10-15 years. Having said that, there is still more to do. We expect them to be more professional and learn from other tennis major countries.
AITA has also tried to get coaches from abroad. For instance, Nick Bolletiari was recently here where he did workshops.
Tj Team – So, why is the indian tennis not at par with the americans or the european nations. Just look at Serbia, a small country producing tennis sensations.
Karan - One billion population, India is definitely not short of potenital. The problem is that we don’t have a sports culture as such. People anyday prefer studies than the sports. And as I said, a lot of support needed from sponsors. Unless they come forward, I don’t see Indian tennis coming at par with other tennis nations.
Tj Team – We understand media can play a huge role developing a game. Do you feel Tennis & tennis players are given sufficient coverage?
Karan - In a country like India, where sports obviously is not no.1 priority for the media and general population. Cricket is one exception! Having said that, things are getting definitely improved if you compare from where we were 10-15 years ago. A lot of other sports have started getting prominence. Specially because our players have been performing a good show. We have Boxers doing well, the wrestlers, badminton, shooting and tennis also.
It is still not there where it needs to be. And as I say, we need a lot of support from corporates.
Tennis is a major sports in Europe, US where uniersity level tennis is quite big and media cover all future events. This will gradually improve in India as well.
Tj Team – There are Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupati, Rohan Bopanna in the elite, infact Amritraj brothers before that, alongside Sania Mirza and even Yuki nowamongst the others, all are doing well in Doubles. Do you think we Indians have an edge over other when it comes to playing tennis doubles or its just that the top players are not playing doubles.
Karan - You know, if you compare our physical endurance with the europeans and americans, we are not that strongly-built and phisically fit. Doubles are short matches, you need reflexes, and touch is what we possess. On the contrary, singles are different ball-game altogether - played for 3-4 hours at a stretch. You look at players like Nadal, Verdasco. Isner – They are just huge, very fit can continue hitting the ball at a ridiculous pace for 4-5 hours.
To come to their league, we definitely need to get physically fitter. The scene is improving – people have realised that they need to be stronger and fitter if they need to compete with european and american players at international level. It again comes down to the kind of training, nuitrition and infrastructure that we get. We can be as fit as how good we train. We must engage with good coaches & trainers who know how an athlete should be trained right from the childhood to enable them to compete with top players.
More so, culture, genetics, food-habits, they all contribute. But we can not sit back on these excuses. At the end of the day, you need to have a proper training. There are so many leaner, smaller players in circuit who are doing exceddingly well. Leyton Hewit, Michael Chang are the example. So for me, right training, coaching and guidance are the key things
Tj Team – Coming back to you, what are your next plans. AITA tournaments, ITF… what next? What are you focussed on?
Karan - The next big thing is Commonwealth games now. Let us see how good I can do. I am pretty focussed on it. Playing for the country gives a lot of honour. In the longer run, I would want to get see myself in top-100 and playing grand-slams more regularly.
Tj Team – What do you consider as your greatest accomplishment of your career till date.
Karan - Playing for the country, the Davis Cup is obviously the highlight of my career till date. Something that I shall always treasure. Then the Asian games. This is what every sportsman dreams of.
Then making to the Australian Open Junior Semi-finals and playing Rafael Nadal in the second round of Chennai Open are things that helped me learn a lot.
Tj Team – Any on-court superstitions?
Karan - Not now really. Younger, I used to wear same shirt, same shorts, eat at same places etc. However, getting mature you realize that you can’t afford to be superstitious.
Tj Team – Some quickies:
- Favourite Food – Indian & Italian
- Interests other than tennis – Love all sports (football, F1, Cricket), movies, travelling
- If not a tennis player, what would you be – Have been playing since I was 4 old. I have never thought about it.
Tj Team – What are your thoughts on our initiative to promote tennis in India?
Karan - I think it’s a great initiative!. It’s good to know that someone has finally taken a step to do something to promote tennis. Hopefully it grows more and more and your effort inspire others too.
TJ Team - What message would you like to give for your fans or tennis lovers in India and across the globe?
Karan - Try to play tennis for fun. It’s a great sport that has a lot of benefits – physical, mental and social. Travelling on tour gives you education about the world. You meet people from different culture, countries and learn from them.
Brining the interview to close, TennisJunction Team wished him all the best in his future endeavours.
We will keep your posted of the latest updates on Karan Rastogi:
Follow karan's latest progress on his ATP Profile