Stay calm and face the storm. If possible, be the storm for your rival!
That has been the guiding principle for Sahaja Yamalapalli who stunned the top seed Kayla Day in the first round of the WTA tennis tournament in Mumbai.
Two weeks of training and interaction with Ashley Hobson during her last stint of tournaments in the USA had made the 22-year-old Sahaja see her tennis in a different perspective. More importantly, she understood the meaning of staying in the moment, being aware of what was happening on court, thinking and playing smart, depending on the demands of the situation. She has learnt to enjoy the challenge thrown at her by every opponent and find her way.
Sahaja had beaten the 158th-ranked Ekaterina Makarova in winning her last title, the $25,000 event in Solapur. However, after that she won one match in four tournaments in Navi Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Indore.
Luckily, she not only got the wild card for the WTA event, but also had a long-time coach at the PBI in Bengaluru, Rituplawan Gogoi to travel for the event in Mumbai.
“He came to help me to get back my confidence and do some tweaks in my game because I was travelling without a coach for several weeks leading to Mumbai”, said Sahaja, Understandably delighted to be able to play her best when facing her first top-100 opponent, Sahaja put things in perspective, expressing her gratitude.
Very high level
“I was happy and grateful to get this opportunity to play on the big stage. The level is very high. To be around these players, training with them, you get the confidence and belief that you belong here, I was telling myself that I can do this even though Kayla was first seed and top-100,” said Sahaja.
To perform well one needs conviction in one’s ability. “I just wanted to give everything out there and see what happens. In the end, when I got the match-points, I was shaking. Oh My God, am winning this! Am really glad that I was able to pull it off. It is a big win for me at this point of my career. This win is motivating. It pushes me to do better, train harder in practice. Go out there and get more wins,” said Sahaja.
For many, the high quality of tennis that Sahaja sustained for more than two hours and 30 minutes may have been a surprise, but Sahaja knew what she was capable of executing on the court.
“I know I can produce this quality of play. It is all mental. I was preparing…