Connect with us





NEW DELHI: A spine injury curtailed her tennis career as a player in 2015. But Namita Bal is a name who found a way to channelise her energy and stoke her dreams of guiding young players to be champions of the country. The 26 year old daughter of Nandan Bal easily one of the best coaches in the country. Namita has been coaching junior players and has recently been travelling for events in the men’s circuit as well. Excerpts:

Q: Namita, you started coaching in 2015. You have been working at the Nandan Bal Tennis Academy in Pune from 2015 with beginners, intermediate and advanced players. So, what do you feel is the role of a coach in a player’s success?

A: I feel a role changes as a player develops. There we play different roles in different stages of a player’s career. So, for me it’s always been about modelling my coaching style and adapting to what the player needs at that moment and what they are going through even off court. I think there is a lot to do sport as well as on board.

Q: In 2019, you were the captain of the Indian Junior Fed Cup which is now known as the Billie Jean King Cup. How was the experience and whom do you consider the strongest contender amongst the women playing for the Indian team?

A: With the junior team it was with any team event it’s always more exciting. The coach plays a far more active role. Then we do individual tournaments but right there on court and we are allowed to speak to the players between changeovers. So, it’s very interesting because we are always strategizing, we are always, there is always a change of game plans because the other coach is also trying to, you know, outsmart our players. So, it’s a lot of exciting team events. It’s always a different experience to be part of a team. For most of the players it’s the only chance they get in the juniors. That’s one for Under 14 and one for Under 16. So there are only these two tournaments that we have in the juniors to be part of a team and playing for the country is a huge honour in itself. So the experience is great for everybody involved, the players as well as the captains. As far as the juniors are concerned I think Shruti Allah is one of our strongest contenders who could go on to do very well. She has got the brain, she’s got the physique and she has got the versatility in her game to make it to the top.

Q: In India, being a tennis coach is a vocation that is generally reserved for men. So have you ever felt out of place or have people ever made you feel that way? How has it affected you?

A: People have definitely tried to make me feel that way, whether intentionally or not. But I don’t think it’s affected me that much. I know the issue is only visibility. There are more male coaches because people haven’t seen too many female coaches. It’s difficult for them to see a female coach play that role. But there are many more female coaches now than when I started. So it’s definitely getting better. I have not really let it affect me because I have known in my bones that this is what I am meant to do. So, whatever people have said has not fazed me. It’s not let me feel like I don’t belong here because I know that I would.

Q: You are obviously different from most of the counterparts. And that can be intimidating. Have you ever struggled with pressure or self doubt as a result of this?

A: 400 percent. I wouldn’t say as a result of that but self doubt is something I think everyone faces everyday in some form or the other. There is a lot of conditioning involved. We live in a society where we criticise far more often than we are placed. So, self doubt comes naturally to all of us. Criticism comes naturally to all of us. I think whenever we are going to get rid of our doubts, we are never going to get rid of our fears. But we can learn how to deal with them. We can learn how to convince ourselves that we are good enough and I think that’s what I do.

Q: You have also made forays into the men’s circuit. What has been the experience so far?

A: Initially it was pretty funny because like I said nobody saw too many female coaches especially those travelling with male players. So they work for you know their sister or them just a friend travelling with them. They never imagine that I was a coach. But it’s been great because I learnt how to stand my ground despite that. I was doing what I was meant to do. So it wasn’t an issue then. Initially it was a little weird because I was looked at strangely.

Q: And here emerges in Amita Bal out of her great struggles and of course the experience what is the significance of women role models like you in sports today?

A: For me I think the biggest significance would be like I said initially the visibility. I think it empowers younger girls to take up the sport not just tennis but any sport. It shows them that there is a future beyond what we’ve been conventionally taught that women should or shouldn’t do. Even if you discontinue playing the sport. There are many more avenues. There’s college tennis and you know the world, the world is a roster.

So, visibility is very important. I know that there was a handful of coaches when I started. And even fewer 10 years before that and I know I have a couple of role models in India Thakur from Delhi.

She is one of my role models, one of our first female coaches and I am up to her and I really loved how she taught how she changed herself depending on who she was coaching. And nothing that I don’t think I have even spoken to her about but it really did have a huge impact on me. So just I feel that if she could have that impact on one person I am hoping that the coaches that we have now can have that impact on many other women too or younger girls to pick up a sport and do what they want with their life.

Q: A major issue that women across the world struggle with is obviously body shaming. Have you ever had issues with your body image? And if yes, then how has it affected your life?

A: 100% have had issues and to honest, I still continue to I wouldn’t say struggle but that self doubt is there quite often because I have grown up being a tennis player, I have grown up identifying myself as being fit. So when I stopped playing and started coaching, I was terrified of saying that. I was terrified of losing my fitness, of losing the way I look, of losing my identity. I know a lot of my players where they are termed as too heavy to be playing or not strong enough to be playing. There are so many judgments that are passed but each body is different. It is different and we just got to use what we have. Play to our strengths. And know that we are strong enough. I think the biggest change for me was going from focusing on how I look to focusing on how I feel. And that’s made a huge difference. I am now focusing on how I feel eating a lot better, I am healthier, I am stronger and I still feel fit. I haven’t lost that.

Q: What sort of changes do you think need to be made in order to improve the role of women in sports?

A: I feel there should be a lot more done at the grassroots level, even schools like young, young children should be brought into sport as early as possible. Schools could do that. We see a lot of young boys playing cricket and football on the streets. There are not too many young girls that we see even though there are so many admirable female footballers and cricketers. You don’t see too many of them, too many kids on the street playing. So, getting schools to include that as part of their curriculum and like I said visibility would help with that. You know, just and it is better. It is better today than it was 10 years ago and I am sure 5 years will be even better.

Q: So, like moving on to some personal area of your life. Namita likes to do what if not tennis.

A: If not tennis definitely be outdoors and preferably outdoors with animals.

Q: Are you a movie freak? Do you like watching movies?

A: I do like watching movies but that’s only if I’m too tired to be outdoors. I’d rather be you know swimming or hiking or just like I said outdoors anywhere in nature with my dog.

Q: So who was your inspiration, Namita?

A: Definitely my father. Every player that I have taught has inspired me has taught me something on a daily basis and it could just be the way they handle a situation. It could just be the way they know and they talk to me about certain fears that they have. So whenever I see somebody overcome something, even if it’s for just one minute, it’s inspiring. It’s inspiring to do that because it inspires me to do better. It gives me those thoughts that I can be better and I can do better and also in some way gives me that happiness that I am able to do this, that I have been given the opportunity to do this. That inspires me.

Q: What are the upcoming tournaments that you are gearing up for?

A: So we’ve got the World Junior Tennis Finals coming up that India qualified for after I think eight years. We played in Delhi a couple of months ago. And we’ve qualified along with Korea, Japan and AustraliA: So that’s going to be in Czech Republic in the first week of August.

The Daily Guardian is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@thedailyguardian) and stay updated with the latest headlines.

For the latest news Download The Daily Guardian App.


Rafael Nadal survives first round scare



Competing on grass for the first time since 2019, Rafael Nadal stepped up to reach the Wimbledon second round for the 14th time on Tuesday. The Spaniard showcased his trademark fighting spirit to overcome a tricky test from Francisco Cerundolo, advancing 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 after three hours and 36 minutes. In front of a packed crowd on Centre Court, Nadal survived a mid-match comeback from the Argentine, who was making his debut at the Championships. After winning the first two sets, the 36-year-old suddenly found himself a break down in the fourth set.

However, with the pressure on, Nadal raised his intensity and increased his depth on return to regain control and improve to 31-3 on the season.

The second seed is seeking a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title, having won the first two majors of the year for the first time in his career. He will face Ricardas Berankis in the second round after the Lithuanian defeated Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

In an eye-catching Wimbledon debut, Maxime Cressy’s rapid rise continued. Relying on the serve-and-volley game that dominated the All England Lawn Tennis Club for much of its history, the World No. 45 earned his first Top 10 win by defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime with a near-perfect serving performance.

In a 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(9), 7-6(5) victory, Cressy charged the net 134 times, winning 71 per cent (95/134) of those points. In a match of fine margins, both players dominated on serve. The American saved the lone break point he faced — at 5-5 in the opening set — while sixth seed Auger-Aliassime saved three of four.

Now 7-4 on the grass at tour-level, Cressy advances to face qualifier Jack Sock in the second round after his countryman earned a 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-4 win against Bernabe Zapata Miralles earlier in the day. Elsewhere, Stefanos Tsitsipas struggled to find his groove for much of his match against Swiss qualifier Alexander Ritschard at Wimbledon, but the fourth seed’s resilience was enough to complete a 7-6(1), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 first-round victory at the grass-court major.

Continue Reading





After his heroics in the 2021-22 Indian Super League final, midfielder Sahil Tavora has signed a new deal with Hyderabad FC to extend his stay at the club till the end of the 2023-24 season, the club announced on Tuesday.

Speaking after signing his extension, Tavora explained what made this decision pretty easy. “The progress the team as a whole and I as a player have made over the last two years under Coach Manolo Marquez was a major factor in me deciding to extend my contract here,” said the Goa-born midfielder.

Tavora, who famously scored the 88th minute equalizer in the ISL final back in March, was a key player for Hyderabad throughout the campaign.

He made 19 appearances for the club and registered a goal and an assist from midfield, often coming off the bench to change the tone of the game.

And it is no surprise that Manolo Marquez was all smiles after Tavora put pen to paper. “Tavora is a crucial player in our squad. But more importantly, he is a player who every coach wants to train,” said the Spaniard.

“He is technically good, is very strong in duels, can shoot from distance and is also a leader in the squad, on and off the pitch,” he added.

With experience of 45 ISL games (31 for HFC) under his belt and now a Champions’ medal on his neck, Tavora, who has been a part of Hyderabad FC since its inception says, “The family like atmosphere not just between the players but also with the technical and non-technical staff makes it a pleasure to work day in day out.”

One of the few players in the current squad to have played in front of a packed Gachibowli Stadium, Tavora also had a message for the fans.

“I’ve been lucky enough to already play in front of our fans in Gachibowli in the first season. We missed them tremendously and really appreciated their support on social media. The atmosphere they create in the stadium is incredible, and I can’t wait to be back and play in front of them again,” he added.

Continue Reading





Star India shuttler P.V. Sindhu produced a stunning win over Thailand’s world no. 10 Pornpawee Chochuwong to advance into the second round of the Malaysia Open tournament on Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur.

Star India shuttler P.V. Sindhu.

Playing on Court 2, Sindhu came through a tough test against Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong in straight games. Seventh-seeded Sindhu dominated Chochuwong in both games 21-13, 21-17. The Indian got off to a great start in the first game and clinched the game with her swift moves. The second game of the match saw Chochuwong fighting back but could not hold Sindhu’s attacks longer and crashed out of the tournament.

India’s double pair B. Sumeeth Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa, couldn’t get past the world no. 21 pairing of Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek of the Netherlands. The Indian duo went down by 15-21, 21-19 17-21 after a 52-minute battle.

Meanwhile, it was a bad day for the 2012 London Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, who suffered a defeat against American Iris Wang 11-21, 17-21 in 37 minutes.

Earlier, India’s H.S. Prannoy started off his Malaysia Open 2022 campaign with a win over the Malaysian Liew Daren in the first round. Playing in court 1, the Indian won his match by margin of 21-14, 17-21, 21-18. Prannoy got off a good start, winning the first game. His Malaysian counterpart bounced back to win the second game, but Prannoy won the closely contested last game by 21-18 to seal the match.

Continue Reading





Ahead of The Fighter Thailand World Boxing Series on July 2, 2022, The Daily Guardian Review spoke to renowned Indian boxer Neeraj Goyat who holds many records. He became the first Indian boxer to have made it in top 20 to WBC World Rankings, won WBC Asia “Honorary Boxer of the year” in 2017 and has won many matches for India.

Q: So, Neeraj you started boxing in 2006 right, can you tell us how this journey started and what kind of challenges were before you?

A: Yes, the journey of boxing started in 2006 and before that I was very good in basketball and athletic running, I was very good in 800m, 1000m and 1500 meters race. And after that in 2006 I got selected in Army Sports Institute, so boxing was everything over there. After starting boxing, I was the weakest boxer there, weak in the sense that the boxer with the least level of performance was me. So, at that time I decided that I have to be the best within a couple of years. 2006-07 was the struggling period in which I used to do three times training in a day. The coaches used to train twice in the morning and in the evening. During the day I used to go for training before lunch and used to do training on Sundays and went to the boxing hall at night time also.

Q: If we talk about your achievements, you won the title of “India’s most promising boxer” in 2008, you are the first Indian boxer to have made it to WBC World Rankings (Ranked 20), Also you won award of WBC Asia “Honorary Boxer of the year” in 2017 and that’s great; so what would you like to say about these big achievements of your boxing career?

A: If I talk about achievements, then I have achieved a lot in Amateur boxing and professional boxing but there is still a lot left. I got the award of Most Promising Boxer, was a national champion in Amateur boxing, played in competition like Olympic qualifier. After that, I was also the Asian Champion of WBC in professional boxing and I also got the award for that and in view of the same thing, today I have been made the brand ambassador of WBC India. So, these are good achievements but many other things have to be achieved. My goal is to bring India to the world level in professional boxing like people have started knowing Philippines because of Manny Pacquiao. Similarly, India should also get such recognition because of me, and I work hard for that.

Q: Neeraj, who has been your role model; who has inspired you the most?

A: The one who inspires me in boxing and has been my role model is Vasiliy Lomachenko, who is from Ukraine and Olympic champion in 2008 and 2012. And after coming to professional boxing, he also became the World Champion. His style of play is completely different and it is a lot of fun to watch his game. So, I always try to play like him.

Q: When did you play the toughest match of your entire boxing career?

A: Till date the worst match in my entire career or can say that the toughest match that I have played was in Mexico in 2018. The day I reached there, I had a fight in the evening and the weight of that boxer was more than me and it was a challenge for me. There was a six round fight and if I tell you, it was a brutal match. I was winning one sided in that fight but Mexicans are tough, very tough to fight. Most tough professional boxers in the whole world are from Mexico. So, my fight was such that in 5th, 6th round I was winning that fight but whatever punch he was hitting me was just to knockout, and I prayed to God while fighting. Ultimately, I lost that fight by split decision, but if that fight was somewhere else instead of Mexico, I would have won that fight. But it was really tough, his punches were hard. So, the toughest fight of my entire career till date has been the same in Mexico.

Q: Neeraj, I would like to ask that how the 2019 car accident affected your game and what kind of difficulties did you face after that accident?

A: Before my accident in 2019, that year started very well, my fight with Aamir Khan was announced, after that my press tour was going on, all those things were going smoothly but around 26-27 days before the fight I had an accident. Although, nothing much happened in the accident and I had a hairline fracture in my hand due to which it took me 2 months to recover. That was a very bad time for me and after that Corona started in 2020. That fight was to be held again but it could not. So that was a very tough time for me, but all these things and incidents take place in people’s lives, even much bigger than this. And I have fought again even after that accident and have won. So now everything is fine.

Q: How excited are you for the Thailand World Boxing series and what would you like to say about your preparation for the match?

A: I am very excited about this match which is going to be in Bangkok against the Thailand’s boxer Rachata Khaophimai. He has good records in professional boxing so many people are supposed to come for this match and it will be such a great match for me. Currently I am in London and my preparation is going on very well.

Continue Reading





DUBLIN: Maiden century by Deepak Hooda (104) and his 176-run stand with Sanju Samson (77) guided India to a massive 227/7 against Ireland in the second and final T20I of the series at The Village in Dublin on Tuesday.

Samson and Hooda smashed the Irish bowlers all over the park. Though a mini-collapse took place for India after the duo were dismissed, the Ireland bowlers did not have much to be positive about at the end of the innings. Batting first, India were not off a good start, losing Ishan Kishan for just 3 after he was dismissed by medium-pacer Mark Adair with help from wicketkeeper-batter Lorcan Tucker.

This brought Deepak Hooda to the crease, who joined the opener Sanju Samson.

The duo went for some big hits and maintained some good running between the wickets. At the end of the powerplay in six overs, India was at 54/1 with Hooda (26*) and Samson (24*).

The duo soon reached their 50-run partnership. The duo switched their gears after this, punishing Irish bowlers more. Hooda brought up his maiden fifty in just 27 balls.

At the end of 10 overs, India stood at 97/1 with Hooda (50*) and Samson (42*). The ninth and tenth over bowled by Gareth Delany and Andy McBrine went for 15 and 16 runs respectively.

The duo brought their 100-run stand in just 55 balls. Samson also brought up his first T20I fifty in 31 balls.

Between 10-15 overs, the duo brutalised the Irish attack, getting 80 runs within these five overs. Hooda in general was more dominant as a batter.

Continue Reading





In the first match of the Wimbledon on Centre Court, defending champion Novak Djokovic recorded his 80th Wimbledon match victory with a win over South Korea’s Soonwoon Kwon on Monday.

The Serbian becomes the first player, man or woman, to record 80 singles victories across each of all four Grand Slam tournaments. The world no. 3 maintained a solid level in his 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory against the World No. 81. Yet Kwon’s aggressive tactics meant Djokovic was never completely comfortable in his first tour-level match since his Roland Garros quarter-final on May 31.

The win extends Djokovic’s unbeaten run at Wimbledon to 22 matches. The Serbian is hunting a fourth consecutive crown at the third major of the year in London, and his second tour-level title of 2022 after he triumphed at the Italian Open in May.

The South Korean was a break up in each of the first two sets and pumped up the Centre Court crowd after he levelled proceedings at a set apiece, but Djokovic’s trademark consistency proved enough to complete a two-hour, 27-minute victory.

The top seed will face Thanasi Kokkinakis or Kamil Majchrzak in the second round at SW19, where he now holds an 80-10 record. The World No. 3 is chasing his seventh title at Wimbledon, a tally that would draw him level with legendary American Pete Sampras and move him within one of record-holder Roger Federer’s eight crowns.

Elsewhere, Cameron Norrie, the British No.9 seed, made a flying start in his 6-0, 7-6(3), 6-3 victory over Pablo Andujar on No.2 Court.

The 26-year-old left-hander romped through the first set for the loss of just 11 points, in 23 one-sided minutes.The veteran Spaniard, who is 10 years Norrie’s senior, forced a tie-break in the second set but was always chasing the match in the third.

Tantalisingly, the play was suspended with the score at deuce in what proved to be the final game. Norrie, who achieved his best result at Wimbledon last year when he reached the third round, will face another Spaniard, Jaume Munar, in the second round.

Continue Reading