Niki Poonacha looks to step it up on the international circuit

Says winning the nationals has given him confidence and he is now focusing on building fitness

When he plays his best tennis, Niki Poonacha looks top class. He can hit the big serves, and whip the forehand where he likes. At his fluent best, he is a delight to watch.

After being crowned the national tennis champion for the second time on Saturday in Delhi, the 26-year-old resolved to take his form and confidence into the forthcoming international circuit.

“I came for the National championship looking to win it. I am happy that I was able to pull it off. After I won the ITF title, the second COVID wave took away the momentum and confidence. So, this win is important,” said Poonacha, who had won the international title at the same venue in April.

“It didn’t go that great for me in the ITF events in Tunisia recently. So, this title is crucial for me. The long matches have given me the mental strength to push more and believe that I can do it,” he said.

Poonacha, who had competed six weeks in Tunisia, had played with many aches and pains through the national championship, visiting physio Anand Dubey to get suitable treatment.

Aches and pains

“I was playing with multiple pains and aches during this week, taking pain killers before the matches. Treatment from the physio, stretching, icing helped me a lot. I just have to play with the pain — mentally block it, and focus on the match. No pain, no gain,” he said.

Poonacha is quite confident about his game, but feels the need to work on the fitness, so as to capitalise on the forthcoming three ITF tournaments in Indore, Delhi and Gurugram. “I am well prepared. In fact, playing the nationals was to prepare for the international events. Winning the nationals has given me the confidence and motivation. I am focusing on recovery now and building my fitness,” Poonacha said.

Poonacha trains at the Rohan Bopanna Academy at the Sports School in Bengaluru. “I am grateful to the whole team. The support is truly amazing,” he said, raving about the support from coaches M. Balachandran, Sujith Sachidanand, physios Dhruv Balaraman and Chelston Pintoi.

To top it all, Poonacha regularly gets “tips and ideas on how to play and improve” from Bopanna.

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