When Mukund Sasi Kumar entered the men’s singles draw at the ITF Futures tournaments in Chennai and Coimbatore in the past two weeks, the 20-year-old wasn’t thinking about winning the two events back-to-back.
But then, playing the two tournaments wasn’t part of his initial plans. Mukund had earlier thought of playing ATP Challenger tournaments either in China or South Korea. A conversation with N Sriram Balaji, aside of his coach’s insistence, changed the world No 501’s mind even as it brought about title hauls.
Mukund’s win over Dutch player Colin Van Beem in Chennai and against countryman Arjun Kadhe this past Sunday raised his title count to three this year – after his first win in the $15,000 ITF F3 tournament in Guwahati in February – and to five overall, with one title each in 2016 and 2015.
When The Field asked Mukund what he had changed this year – by far, the best of his career as of yet – the lad replied that there wasn’t anything specific pertaining to his game he could attest to. But at the same time, he mentioned that he had changed attitude-wise.
“One big thing is I was focusing more on results and this year, I am only focusing on playing better. I think that changed a lot,” Mukund stated. “If you take too much pressure on yourself, then things don’t work out. I think it’s the easiest way to look at life,” he added self-deprecatingly while denying that he was a philosophising 60-year-old.
Another attribute of Mukund’s successes this year on the ITF pro circuit, he noted, was because of the inputs he has received from all corners. Be it the mentoring Aditya Sachdeva has provided him, or the support he has received from players like Prajnesh Gunneswaran, N Sriram Balaji and Vijay Sundar Prashanth, Mukund has soaked in all the advice and suggestions that have come his way with an eye on improvement.
“There are many people who have helped me, I can’t take one name,” Mukund said. In the same vein, he also remarked that one significant reason that such unhesitating support came his way was because of the rapport he has cultivated with these members of the Indian tennis-playing community in the last few years.
This, Mukund regards as his biggest achievement in his life, more than the results themselves: “I didn’t throw away people who said things straight at my face. I only threw people who flattered me. It took me six-seven years to get close to these guys. I think that is what is helping me right now,” he observed.