Historically, Indian tennis on a Grand Slam stage has always been dominated by doubles stars like Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Sania Mirza, but that may all be set to change if Yadlapalli Pranjala has her way.
The 16-year-old teenage talent made history this week by becoming the first Indian girl to be ranked in the top 20 of the ITF juniors’ circuit, and with it, direct entry into the main draw of the girls event at Wimbledon.
Yadlapalli has been making waves on the ITF junior tour, winning the 2014 Grade IV title in Hyderabad and Grade I crowns in Chandigarh and Thailand. She also recently started playing on the ITF pro circuit and is set to achieve a full WTA ranking by the end of the year.
“Getting this ranking is very satisfying. However I have to work harder to compete with the best in the world,” Pranjala, who surpassed Mirza’s junior best of 20, said.
“It is a dream come to true to play at Wimbledon as I have limited opportunities to play on grass. I played only once on grass at the under-14 Asian ranking tournament and I won it.
“The ball stays low on a grass court. For Wimbledon, I have been working on my drop shots and strokes. I have learnt to adjust to different conditions.”
Pranjala, an under-14, 16 and 18 national champ, has been practising on the surface for the past fortnight and reckons her game will continue to develop the more time she spends playing with the best youngsters.
“I get to learn a lot from these players as it builds confidence. The ITF coaches closely follow my game. That helps. They told me that I am playing good tennis but they advised to work on my second service and movement.
“More importantly, they told me to play more tournaments in the European circuit,” she said.
Her coach Ilyas Ghouse predicts a bright future for Pranjala, but said she must become more consistent after watching her struggle on Europe’s clay court, including at the French Open.
“Pranjala has to grab her chances. She has to play her best on the important points. The tough part begins now. She has to be ready physically and mentally,” Ghouse said.
“Once she becomes confident and stops taking that step backwards, she will progress. She is getting into the deep end, and has to be at her best.”
Ghouse has a big role in the development of the next generation of Indian tennis as he also guides Shashank Teertha and Sathwika Sama at the GVK Tennis Centre in Hyderabad.