This is the first in a series of articles going behind the scenes of 21-year-old Karman Kaur Thandi’s journey. She is just the sixth Indian woman to break into the Top 200 in the WTA rankings.

It all started with a father wanting to enroll his eight-year-old daughter in a tennis summer camp. Little did he know that this decision would give India one of its best female tennis players.

At 21, Karman Kaur Thandi is already one of India’s most successful female players, becoming just the sixth Indian woman to have cracked the top 200 of the WTA rankings. She has a career-high ranking of 196, with a career-high ITF Juniors ranking of 32 and she’s just getting started.

With a mammoth forehand and a gigantic serve, she has all the ingredients to become a top player. She made her Grand Slam debut at the Australian Open qualifiers earlier this year, where there was this rare exposure to speedometers. She was touching the 180 kmph mark on her serves quite comfortably, which is pretty close to what the WTA top guns clock. She also has raw power, which needs to be harnessed correctly. And luckily, she has a team around her to help her do it.

Her journey so far has not been short of hurdles though. Tennis is an expensive sport and to become a world beater, you need to have access to world class training, which not everyone can afford.

After Thandi started dominating the Under-14 and Under-16 levels in the country, playing internationally was naturally the next step. While her family was able to arrange for funds for one or two of her tours, to be able to do that for an entire calendar year was turning out to be impossible.

Fortunately, she had a great run in the junior tournaments leading up to the US Open in 2015, where she beat numerous top 50 players, losing to just top 10 players. This run culminated with a Round of 16 finish at the US Open Juniors, where she lost to the world No 2.

This made a certain Mahesh Bhupathi take notice of her game, and he took the onus on himself to arrange funds for her from various sources. He helped her get the Virat Kohli Foundation scholarship, which takes care of her tennis financially.

Here’s a look at her career highlights and achievements.

August 2012
Won the MCC Adidas Nationals U14 Singles and Doubles titles in Chennai.

April 2013
Won her first ITF juniors doubles title partnering Nikita Anand at the G5 event in Indore.

December 2013
Won her first ITF Juniors singles title at the G4 event in Mumbai.

Leander Paes handed the trophy to her

May 2014
Was selected for the U-16 Junior Fed Cup Asia Oceania team in Kuching, Malaysia

From left" Rushmi Chakravarthi (coach), Pranjala Yadlapalli, Karman Thandi, Abinikka Renganathan.

October 2014
Won the WTA Future Stars U-16 title in Singapore without dropping a set, where Serena Williams also gifted her an autographed tennis racquet at the draw ceremony.

Karman was handed the trophy by 2 time Grand Slam champion Li Na
Interviewed by BBC after her big win at the WTA Future Stars event in Singapore

November 2014

Was part of the Delhi Dreams team at the Champions Tennis League, where she got to train with various top players.

With two-time Grand Slam champ Garbine Muguruza

January 2015
Won the singles title at the ONGC ITF Juniors G3 event in Kolkata as a wildcard entrant.

June 2015
Won her first G1 singles event on her least favorite surface, clay in Offenbach, Germany. (It was a red letter day for Indian junior tennis as Sumit Nagal also won the boys title at the same event.)

July 2015
Was a part of the WTA Future Stars clinic held to inspire kids in Hyderabad.

From left – Karman, Sania Mirza, Martina Navratilova, Melissa Pine

September 2015
Made her junior Grand Slam debut at the US Open. Made the Round of 16, losing to world No 2 Dalma Galfi

November 2015
Won her first ITF Pro Circuit doubles title at ITF $10K Gulbarga partnering Dhruthi Tatachar Venugopal.

Dhruthi, Karman, Prerna Bhambri, Kanika Vaidya

January 2016
Made the Round of 16 in singles and quarter-final in doubles (partnering Pranjala Yadlapalli) at the Junior Australian Open.

Mid 2016
Started training at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in France, which is run by Patrick Mouratoglou, coach to players like Serena Williams and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

June 2018

Won her first ITF Pro Circuit singles title at $25K Hong Kong after losing her first four finals.

November 2018

She won her first WTA doubles title at the 2018 WTA Taipei OEC Open, partnering fellow Indian Ankita Raina.

January 2019
Made her Grand Slam debut as a professional at the Australian Open 2019. She lost in the qualifying 0-6, 5-7 to 16th seed American Jennifer Brady. She could have made her Grand Slam debut at the 2018 US Open, but since it clashed with the Asian Games, she opted to play singles and mixed doubles (partnering Divij Sharan.)


This article was first published on Indian Tennis Daily.