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Kedar in her corner, Rutuja finds her tennis groove again | tennisnews

Rutuja Bhosale. (TOI Photo)

Rutuja Bhosale can be a regular at the Grand Slams, believes her coach Kedar Shah.
The Pune girl has been experiencing a mini resurgence, both on the mental side as well as her game, over the past 12 months or so since joining Shah at his Bounce Tennis Academy.
Shah, a former pro circuit player who transitioned to coaching at an early age, said the key to helping Rutuja get her back on track was getting her interested in the game all over again.
“Rutuja is a very solid player — technically good ground strokes, stability, balance. But one thing we both, me and Rutuja, agreed was that tactically she could get better, how to construct the points could be better,” said the 40 -year-old Shah.
“She was going through .. I wouldn’t say a mental setback, but she was sort of clueless where she was heading towards. On court, she couldn’t get the best out of herself. She couldn’t push herself. Somewhere she thought she was mentally fatigued, not highly motivated.
“So, the first thing was to form a team where it was the coach, which was me, and the physical as well as mental trainer — We all work together towards it.”
The target was three-fold: improve her fitness, tactical awareness and serve.
Shah put in place a program which saw Rutuja work with Ajinkya Keskar, a strength and conditioning coach with a degree from the University of Houston; sports psychologist Gayatri Vartak, a former badminton player married to tennis player-turned-coach Aditya Madkekar; and Surabhi Date, a former India rugby player who established herself as a renowned strength and conditioning coach.
Date, who currently works with the Boxing Federation of India, worked briefly with Rutuja to identify her strengths and weaknesses, and put in place a programme, said Shah.
Vartak, who is now in Birmingham to help the Indian contingent at the Commonwealth Games, struck a rapport with Rutuja instantly.
But it was former women’s ITF player tanisha rohira from Bangalore who has come to play a bigger role. “They both gel very well. She is more of a friend, she needs that support and company,” Shah said.
“Good part is that Tanisha has also done diploma in physiotherapy. So, she knows certain things, especially the recovery, certain muscle release and all — she knows that. It helps.
“Plus, she is a player, I can talk to her about the matches.”
The progress has been slow and steady.
A semifinal in Bangalore and title in Solapur was matched by a doubles title in Bangalore and a final in Estonia in 2021.
“Getting the team together has given Rutuja more confidence, she started believing in herself, in her abilities,” the coach said.
“And the game-construction, the tactical side started getting better as well. There is a still a long way to go. But now she has a vision, that this is where I want my game to reach. And if my game reaches there , my ranking will do also.
“We are still in the process. One positive is that she is a lot more confident in playing a lot of matches. One of my first priorities was to get her enjoying the game.”
In the pre-season, Shah tweaked Rutuja’s service action.
“Her service speed and percentage have improved a lot. That is where she is getting more free points, against the top players also. Earlier she had to struggle for every point. This is again boosting her confidence,” he said.
A big fillip for Rutuja has been the backing she has received from the Balan Group. Thanks to her financial support, she will have Tanisha traveling with her to the UK and the US.
“I have been working on a few specific things. The idea is to be a better all-round player rather than being just solid from the baseline,” Rutuja said. “I am mentally calmer. I can trust my game. Being confident with what I am doing.”
Another external factor that has worked in her favor has been the postponement of the Asian Games. It has meant that she has not come under pressure to chase the India No. 1 ranking and focus on her game development.
“The postponement has helped. It has given me more time to work. Right now, the No. 1 spot is for anyone’s taking. It is just 40-50 points’ difference. It doesn’t matter much anyway as it is only for Asian team selection.My focus is going higher in the WTA,” she said.
This year, her doubles graph has picked up strongly — four semifinal appearances and two titles — while in singles she has reached a quarterfinal and semifinal.
The imbalance in her singles and doubles rankings — 432 in singles and 250 in doubles — means she has to play more $25K and $60K events in singles and higher-level events in doubles.
The team has worked out a schedule for the coming weeks in such a way that Rutuja can try to improve both: A couple of $25K events in the UK before heading to the US for bigger events.
One eye will be on trying to up the singles ranking in time to make the US Open Qualifying cut, but a more reasonable target is the 2023 Australian Open Qualifying.
In between, she will play a $125K WTA Series event in Italy, unless her stay in New York is extended.
“If there is a chance, she will try to get into the US Open Qualifying. Else, we will be working hard on getting into the qualifying of the Australian Open,” Shah said.
“I hope that she does really work hard and starts getting into the main draw of the grand slams. I believe she has it in her, she has the potential.”


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