Karman Kaur Thandi has the potential to be top-100: Nirupama Sanjeev | Tennis News

PUNE: Former India No. 1 Nirupama Sanjeev believes a lack of “guidance” from coaches is preventing talented juniors in the country from making a successful transition to the women’s tennis tour.
The US-based Nirupama, first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam match in the Open era, said that aspiring players needed to be taught beyond strong fundamentals of the game.
“The scenario is much better than before in terms of juniors but the transition still doesn’t happen very well,” Nirupama, in India to call the WTA Tour event in Chennai, said.
“Coaching is definitely an issue,” the 1998 Asian Games mixed doubles bronze medallist continued.
“In India we are so focussed on technique. We need to focus a little more on the pathway, fitness and other aspects like strategy, how to win tournaments, what can be done with what we have. I feel the guidance is very lacking from the coaches.”
Post Sania Mirza, the women’s sport in India wears a gloomy outlook. Ankita Raina, who has occupied the country’s No. 1 spot since 2014, has seen her ranking steadily slide in recent months and has lost the pole position to Karman Kaur Thandi in live rankings.
Nirupama, who was ranked a career-high 115 back in 1997, was impressed with Karman’s show in Chennai where she put on an impressive display in a second round loss to former World No. 5 and Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard.
“I really liked what I saw,” Nirupama said of the tall Delhi girl who has risen to 323, while Ankita has gone down to 330 in WTA rankings.
“Her game has a lot of improvements to make but it is a great start. She has got two big weapons, which is unheard of for us. Sania Mirza had a huge forehand, and Karman has the forehand and the big serve.”
The 45-year-old said if Karman could “fix three-four areas of her game”, she could make a real impact.
“Obviously her backhand, her net game, and if she could in general add slice and variations. None of these is unworkable,” she said.
“She is 24 right now. It is a very good age. The most important task for her is how to be injury free. She is travelling with a physio, which is a very good thing.
“She has to choose the right tournaments.
“All these aspects can be worked at side by side. Maybe she can have a base somewhere or travel with a coach and work on the road.
“She can be top-100 potentially. She has shown how mentally strong she is.”
Karman’s matches often are epic battles, perhaps leading to some of her injuries. Nirupama was not unduly worried about it, though.
“If she improves, if her backhand gets steadier and stronger and the net game gets better, automatically it will take care. The serve is her biggest strength. She has a huge wing span, she has to come to the net a little more often, then points can become shorter,” she said.
She added that perhaps some of Karman’s shortcomings also played a part in her being stretched the full distance by her opponents.
“I have not seen her enough, so I cannot comment too much. Her backhand is not there. Her forehand, the serve and fighting spirit are world class,” she said.
“Everybody will have one hand that they don’t like. It is how well you mask it. You have to be able to hit five or six balls and no one should be able to make out. Right now, she can’t (do that).”
Nirupama, however, was concerned about the lack of progress from Ankita.
“She hasn’t made any improvement” since last year’s US Open, she said.
Nirupama was supposed to guide Ankita, 29, during the hard court major in New York but it didn’t materialise as the former Fed Cupper contracted Covid.
“It is going to be entirely upto her. She has the talent, the hard work and the discipline. She should not at the age of 40 feel, ‘oh, I should have done that’. Now is the time.”

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