India is all set to play against five-time champions Spain in the World Group Play-off tie starting Friday and the country’s new sensation Saketh Myneni considers his team the "strong underdogs", who can create opportunities and cause upsets.
Speaking exclusively to thestatesman.com, Saketh shared his journey till now, his future targets, goals and his marriage plans.
“We go in the tie as strong underdogs. It&’s not going to be easy for sure,” Saketh said.
“The Spanish team have come here with full strength and Spain have won the Davis Cup five times. The only thing for us is that we are playing against them at home and hopefully we will get a lot of crowd because of the star power. We will also get to improve a lot and hopefully we can create an upset,” he added.
Spain&’s biggest weapon is the 14-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal who will be up against Saketh and the team also consists of 13th ranked David Ferrer and not to forget French Open Champions Feliciano Lopez (world number 26) and Marc Lopez (world number 15 in doubles).
When asked about playing against Nadal, he said, “You have been seeing him up close and it&’s one of the best experiences. Nadal, being in India, is I think the biggest boost for tennis in the country."
“To see these guys (Spaniards) train, the dedication, discipline, the fundamentals they put, you just can’t learn that on TV. The amount of effort they put in is incredible. Him to be in India is the biggest boost India can ever ask,” Saketh added.
Surprisingly, Spain have sent their strongest team for the tie against India and the 28-year-old Indian was not at all surprised with the decision.
“Spain have given due importance to the tournament every time and they want their national team to be strong. In tennis, very few times it happens that you play as a team otherwise you play as an individual. I think, they have made the right decision,” he said.
Saketh, promoted by Zeven—a sportswear brand, recently came into the limelight by displaying a remarkable tennis game against the World No.49 Jiri Veseley in the US Open first round match. Saketh gave a mighty scare to him before limping out of the match as leg spasms scuttled his hopes.
“For me it was unfortunate that I finished the tournament in a cramping way. But I think I had a great fun, great tournament and one of the bests that I have ever played. Pretty encouraging in terms of how I was playing and having to go through three rounds of qualifying, it was never easy,” he said.
“Qualifying for US Open was the big thing for me. I battled well through the whole week, before this I played three good matches. The support was tremendous in terms of New York is my home away from home. I had friends and family to support there, all in all a good experience it was,” he added.
Saketh, who started playing at the age of 24, is passionate about playing for India and he wants to win the Olympics medal for his country.
“When I started playing, Davis Cup was my ultimate aim. It&’s one of the privileges to play for India and carry that Indian flag on your T-shirt. I never wanted to buy an Indian team T-shirt. I wanted to play for India and get it with pride,” he said.
“As an athlete, you always want to represent your country at the best possible way. Olympics is a big thing. Playing for the country and winning the medal is like my dream come true,” Saketh added.
And, not many people know that he asked his girlfriend Sri Lakshmi Anumolu out on Wednesday at the official Davis Cup dinner and will be getting married soon.
“It wasn’t like completely planned and not even unplanned; it was a mixture of both. I wanted to do something she could remember. I think it was the perfect time to do,” he said, adding, "Probably by the end of this year, we will get married.”
When asked about his favourite tennis player and someone he follows, he said,"I grew up watching Andre Agassi but from the current crop of players I think Roger (Federer) comes right at the top and of course Rafael Nadal after him.”