Prithvi Sekhar, the newly crowned champion at the World Deaf Tennis Championship, is happy to be back home in Chennai. The 26-year-old was on a tour to Antalya in Turkey for over a week, participating in the World Deaf Tennis Championship 2019, where he won the title by defeating the third-seeded Jaroslav Smedek from the Czech Republic. As he touched down in Chennai on Monday — welcomed by his parents and close friends — Prithvi was more than willing to share glimpses from his life and career with TNM.
Born with hearing impairment, Prithvi was eight years old when he was faced with an option of taking up either cricket or tennis. He chose the latter, “because it can be played individually”, says Prithvi.
Today, Prithvi is employed in the Integrated Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, a job he secured under the sports quota.
The first break
His first breakthrough on the professional tennis circuit came in May 2018, at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tennis Tour held in China, where he scored his first Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) point by winning a match, which is significant for any male tennis player aspiring to compete professionally.
“It inspired me to play more competitive tennis,” Prithivi says, reflecting on his win in China. His journey since then has been one of hard work and dedication, which helped him grab the title at the World Deaf Tennis Championships 2019.
“This win is truly precious for me since playing for the country and getting a gold medal is special; not to mention getting to hold the national flag after the win,” he says.
A winning routine
Training under coaches Suresh Kumar and Balaji for over 12 years, Prithvi spent hours perfecting the game. A typical day in his life was a mix of sports, studies and rest. “Tennis helped me focus on my studies,” he says, adding that even after practice sessions every day, he had time for academics.
“Every day, from Monday to Friday, I used to set aside four hours, that is, from 6 am to 10 am, to practise tennis. In the evenings, on alternate days, I used to concentrate on fitness activities for three hours, and then Sunday used to be my rest day,” he explains.
Prithvi credits his win to his parents -- L Sekhar, a retired engineer, and Gomathi Sekhar, a homemaker -- who, he says, have been supportive from day one. He also explains that his coaches have been instrumental in training him to face the best in the world and compete with them. “They are professionally competent coaches who bring the best out of their trainees,” he adds.
An ardent fan of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, Prithvi says that it is their perseverance, hard work and attitude of not taking anything for granted till the game is over, which is spectacular. “Their on-and-off court behaviour also inspires me,” says Prithvi, who, when prodded, named Djokovic as his role model.
Support sportsmen with disabilities
“I would want the government to encourage and support me and all the talented sportsmen in the country; especially, those who have disabilities,” says Prithvi, dedicating his win to the game of tennis and ‘thousands of unidentified but talented persons with disabilities, across the country’.
While winning the World Deaf Tennis Championships was a dream come true, Prithvi hopes to secure more such wins and one day compete in the regular pro-circuit.