It has been a memorable experience at the Incheon Asian Games for Saketh Myneni who captured the mixed doubles gold with Sania Mirza and the men’s doubles silver partnering Sanam Singh. Myneni whose singles ranking has dipped to 453 in the last few months because of injuries wants to build on this performance and break into the top 100.
Sports Rediscovered got a chance to catch up with the golden boy on his return home in Visakhapatnam. In an exclusive chat, the soon-to-be 27-year-old shared his memories, experience of playing with Sania, his ambitions and his excitement about the upcoming Champions Tennis League which he is a part of. Here are the excerpts –
SR: How special was it to win a gold medal in your first Asian Games?
Myneni: It was obviously a very good feeling winning two medals for my country in my first Asian Games. I thoroughly enjoyed myself going there and competing at the best level.
SR: In the men’s doubles final, Sanam Singh and you had to settle for silver after a hard-fought two-setter. Any regrets for not being able to get the gold there?
Myneni: When we were going into playing the doubles, we were expecting just to do well and get a medal. We are happy we put ourselves in a place guaranteed to get the gold or silver by reaching the final. Unfortunately the Koreans (Lim Yong-kyu and Chung Hyeon) played a good match in the final and a couple of points maybe could have helped us turn the match around. Especially the crucial deuce points, if we could have won, we could have forced the super breaker.
SR: You often practise with Sania Mirza. So, a good friend and experienced player like Sania as a partner must have been as an added bonus?
Myneni: Absolutely! She’s been a good friend for the last couple of years. Being good friends off the court and on the court helped us prepare for the game, communicate well and perform well on the day we were supposed to play. She brought a lot of experience into the game.
SR: You have said that you are a low-profile guy. How are you dealing with the attention and adulation after the Asian Games?
Myneni: I think I am still the same guy like how I was last year and maybe a couple of years back! People got to know me a little better now after the Asian Games but I am still the same person I was before.
SR: There will be a lot of expectations from you after the Asiad. Do expectations put pressure?
Myneni: Going into the Asian Games there was big pressure as we had to perform without the big players. I thought we handled it pretty well. Coming back with five medals is always a good thing for our confidence. Like now, maybe they have labelled me as a gold medallist coming out of the Asian Games and the expectations are a little bit higher. You ought to have fun and enjoy the pressure.
SR: What did you study in the USA? How do you think your stay in the States helped your game?
Myneni: I double majored in Finance and Economics (at the University of Alabama). Going to the States was the biggest exposure for me as I had never travelled outside India before college. Going there training with people who came from different countries, getting to learn new cultures, adjusting to new lifestyles, doing a lot of things on my own really helped me a lot in developing myself as a person and a tennis player too.
SR: What are your immediate goals?
Myneni: My goal has always been to try to get into the top 100 of singles. I also want to compete at the Grand Slams at the highest level. Then maybe put myself in a situation where I can compete at the next Olympics.
SR: How are you looking forward to the experience of playing in the Champions Tennis League?
Myneni: I am excited about it. I always love team events in sports. I played it in college before and it is the same thing. In individual sports, we never get to compete in teams. So, it’s always a good thing where you have a lot of fun playing together and competing against other teams. Also with so many top players playing, it will be a good experience. We get to learn a lot from these guys in general. They bring in a new perspective to the game and help us in situation handling and all that stuff.
Saketh will next be in action at the Indore Challenger starting on 13th October, 2014.
Sports Rediscovered would like to thank Saketh Myneni for taking out time for the chat and would like to wish him all the very best for his career.