20 May

Mind over matter

Navneet Ravishanker

Returning from injury West-Ham-Park-and-Newham-League champ, Navneet gave himself an almost impossible task - three matches to complete in 18 hours and the last of them destined to be the toughest of his Local Tennis League career to date. Would he have to hand his opponent a walkover? Not if Navneet's wife had any thing to do with it...

 

Sport has to be the best way to keep fit but I started playing tennis in the UK because my brother gave me a tennis racket for my birthday. I signed up for a taster session at Stratford Park and now am addicted!

Tennis isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle! As well as helping me maintain good health, fitness and agility, it has also helped me a lot off the court. I love the fact that it makes you think and improves your lateral thinking ability and problem-solving skills. It is a sport which involves evaluating angles, geometry and physics and that all comes into the tactics. And of course, it is an excellent stress buster!

Before I joined the league, I had been playing in a group of around six hitting mates and having played tennis regularly within our circle we started to read each other’s game well and recognised each other's strengths/weaknesses. I wanted to challenge myself and play someone who I knew nothing about. The element of surprise in playing an unknown opponent makes you think out of the box to decide you approach/strategy towards the match and that's what I enjoy most about the league. 

I am very much a ‘counter-puncher’. However if the match situation or opponent demands me to be the aggressive baseliner, I don’t tend to hold back. It is important is to read the match situation and to tweak you strategy and adapt to other styles of playing as required.

Having got an exposure to so many competitive matches & players in the circuit, I can confidently say that there is certainly a drastic improvement in my overall game. My match against Mehran in  round 32 was my most memorable match so far. Mehran, aged 19, was the new kid on the block and was a sensation. He had a really good overall game and was thrashing everyone in the group. Up to the point we played both of us had won all our matches so it was the virtual final as the winner of this match will be declared winner of the group.

The first set was a marathon battle as both of us were determined to win and gain the upper hand. The closely fought set went into a tie break and Mehran outplayed me in the tie breaker to snatch the set 7-6. I knew I had to do something different in the second set so I changed my tactics and started playing aggressively. This worked in my favour as I broke Mehran early which disturbed his rhythm and with me continuing to be aggressive, I managed to level the match by winning the second set 2-6. The last set was a battle of nerves/test of character/strength and stamina. Both of us were exhausted and the 23 degrees of heat drained us even more. The set was on serve and evenly poised till 4-4, a couple of deuces later I managed to break his serve! I managed to hold my serve to close out the match 7-6, 2-6, 4-6.

But I almost didn't play the match! At the start of that round, I had twisted my ankle and was forced to rest it for three weeks. When I resumed, I had to play back to back matches. My match against Mehran was my 3rd match in 18 hours! I had decided not to play but then called my Sharwari (my wife) to say I would be home early. She seemed unimpressed: ‘This is a Final’. I shouldn't hand my opponent the walkover!  Though I ran out of steam and the feeling of ‘Give up’ crept in several times during the match, I hung in there, believed in myself and was able to pull this match off. Really glad I did not walk away from it (Bless Sharwari). All these events/factors made the victory and made this overall experience all the more special. 

When I look back, I am really pleased I was a part of this. Two back to back leagues and 13 wins in a row (especially the 13th) feels great!

I would highly recommend this league to everyone. It doesn’t matter what level you are ‘beginner, intermediate or an advanced’ you should always look to improve yourself and there is no better way to improve your game than playing the league.

The next round in West Ham Park and Newham kicks off on 1st August and is open for entries here.