VERY FEW youngsters in India are presented with the opportunity to train at the leading tennis clinics around the world. Some boys and girls even struggle with basic necessities. However, Adil Kalyanpur from Bangalore is blessed to be honing his skills under the watchful eyes of reputed coach, Toni Nadal at the Rafael Nadal academy in Spain.
Adil (16) is one of the top players in the junior circuit. In fact, after the updated rankings get released a few weeks from now, he will be the No.1 player in the U-18 category in the country.
Having shot to fame in 2015 CTL, the youngster has made steady progress. Besides winning titles on the ITF circuit, Adil has also become one of the pillars of the junior Davis Cup team. Although the lanky youngster couldn’t make an impact in the boys’ category in 2016 French Open, his move to the newly formed, Nadal academy has certainly lifted his spirits.
Before flying to Spain, Adil took time to explain to TFG on how the coaching program, commencing in September at the much-fancied academy in Mallorca will help evolve his game in the bid to become a successful professional on the ATP Tour.
Firstly, how did the opportunity to train at the Rafa Nadal academy come about?
I was actually looking for a place to train regularly and then I was trying to choose between Nadal and Mouratoglou (Serena Williams' coach) academy. But finally, I decided to stick to the Nadal academy, spent more than a week and really enjoyed the training. Uncle Toni was with us and there were not too many players then, owing to which I got some personalized training as well. Very quickly, Nadal’s agent (Carlos Costa) presented the contract to my parents and I happily enrolled.
Did you ever get a chance to hit with Rafa?
Actually twice. The opportunity finally came after spending five weeks at the academy. Uncle Toni came up to me and said, Rafa wants to hit with you. Upon hearing this, I was nervous and there was so much adrenaline. I could feel his energy while hitting. Like always, he was playing with high intensity, the conditions were demanding, but I was happy to get majority of the balls back. It was arguably my toughest hitting session ever.
Did he say anything to you after your practice?
No. He didn’t say anything at all. Rafa like always was super focused on his game and after the practice, he stuck to his routine.
What about Uncle Toni. What advice did he give you?
Well, nothing direct. But yes, I remember there was a moment during practice, Uncle Toni and Carlos along with some coaches were discussing that I should be ranked 700 on the ATP Tour given the level at which I was playing. I didn’t really understand Spanish, but there was one local guy who translated the whole thing to me. It was a huge confidence booster for me to hear these accomplished, experienced coaches talking good about me.
Can you explain about your contract with the academy?
At the moment, it’s a one-year contract, but Carlos will be my agent for the next three years. Given Carlos’ reputation, I am sure he will line-up things beautifully for me going ahead.
How do you see your time at this academy helping you?
Really enjoyed high-intensity training till now. There is a perfect balance maintained on how much time we spend on and off the court. The entire scheduled is professionally planned. Furthermore, the whole idea of a team of coaches helping you with multiple inputs certainly is going to help me. Also, the facilities- swimming pool, food, rooms and infra has been top class. It’s a full package. I genuinely feel this is a place where I can maximize my potential.
What special methods are going to be adopted in Spain?
I will be playing with players across the world here. Hopefully, I get a chance to train with the ATP pros regularly. Roger Federer is scheduled to join us soon. In addition, the coaches are at a much different level here. I have already traveled with Carlos and the USTA coach for a week. These experiences I would have never got in India. It’s all world class here!
Game wise, overall work needs to be done. But I am more focused on building my weapons- serve and forehand, which will obviously be very vital when I make the move to the senior level.
Do you see this opportunity of training at Nadal’s academy giving you an edge over your contemporaries?
I don’t know how much an academy can help me get an edge over other players. I have to be dedicated and show the desperation to improve. But I feel this place is best suited for me and will surely helping me going ahead.
Now that you will be based in Spain, will it make you better equipped to clay? We know Indians have always struggled on the dirt.
Clay requires more fitness, stamina and patience. Also, you need to really grind a lot on clay to win points. Further, I will learn sliding and how to construct grueling points on the dirt. Lot of Indians need to realize that hard courts will only improve your game a little, but clay has so many more different aspects to it and to become a top player, you need to play well on clay and that can be only mastered by playing more on the surface. I am glad I have the opportunity to train on clay.
Talk about your Grand Slam aspirations…
Main goal at the end of the day is to play the Slams regularly and break into the top-100 of the men’s game in singles. It’s more of a team work to get to that level. Currently, I working on developing my physicality to be able to compete at all times. Initial goal will be the junior Slams and hopefully by 2020 I can break into the men’s tour and start competing for the bigger prizes.