One who makes it through bad days will only get to see good days: Hyd tennis player Sravya Shivani

From childhood fantasy to irresistible passion, 21-year-old Sravya Shivani from Hyderabad went on to win international tournaments.

By Nimisha S Pradeep  Published on  24 Jan 2022 1:41 PM GMT
One who makes it through bad days will only get to see good days: Hyd tennis player Sravya Shivani

Hyderabad: People have different reasons for choosing a career – they love it, it pays well, it allows them to meet a lot of people, and so on and so forth.

When little Sravya Shivani Chilakalapudi watched tennis player Maria Sharapova play, her eyes caught her gorgeous black dress. She instantly became so happy and realised how much she liked that dress. That moment, she decided, this was going to be her career. This could sound silly to many, but the larger point that Sravya makes is that one must do what makes one happy.

"I didn't tell my parents this reason but deep down it was the glamour of the sport that caught me first," says Sravya chuckling. "In my family, it was not about what motivated you, but about what you do with the motivation," she adds.

From childhood fantasy to irresistible passion, 21-year-old Sravya Shivani from Hyderabad went on to win a silver and gold medal in the South Asian Games in 2019; doubles title in the International Tennis Federation tournament in Tunisia; and doubles in the national tournament, both held in 2021 among other tournaments.

Little Sravya with Saina Nehwal

Sravya began her career in tennis at the age of seven. It was more of recreation for her, like her music and dance classes. "I used to go along with my brother to the training institute, School of Power Tennis in Hyderabad, where I met my first coach C.V Nagaraj," says Sravya. She trained under him for over 12 years.

It was when Sravya was in her 8th standard in Hyderabad Public School that she decided to take up tennis as her career. Her family was particular about her studies so she had to manage both studies and tennis. She says it was not easy. "I used to go for training early in the morning, attend school after that, and in the evening after coming back from school, I again went for training. It was hard. But I had very good teachers and friends who helped with the lessons and my school didn't mandate any attendance requirement, so I could balance both," says Sravya.

Sravya with her national doubles partner Sharmada Balu

Women in sports

Unlike many girls who are unable to enter sports due to various societal stereotypes, Sravya admits that she was very privileged. Her parents were very supportive and encouraged her to do what she loved.

But she points out two main challenges that women in sports have to face – travel and funds. "Funds are relatively lesser for women players and also since tennis is an individual sport, it is even more expensive. Another hurdle is travelling. As a person who also gets to watch both sides of the coin (she also sees her brother travelling for tournaments), I realise how it is a bigger deal when it comes to women travelling alone. My parents are scared when I have to travel for a tournament. Either my coach or parents accompany me always," explains Sravya.

Earn your victories, accept your losses

During her childhood days, Sravya was always let to win at home. She recalls the days when she used to play with her father, Srinivas Chilakalapudi, who was also a tennis player, and how he made her feel better when she was losing. It was her mother who taught her an important value. "My mom always reminded me that I had to work hard to achieve what I want in life," says Sravya. This lesson helped her to keep her head down and just keep working on bad days.

Is the pain worth it?

When Sravya was 14, she got injured on her knee because of which she couldn't play for some time. "I miss going to school. I am missing many birthday parties, too. Is this pain really worth it?" little Sravya thought.

But she hung on there and kept working. At the 2019 South Asian Games, standing at the podium with a gold medal around her neck and the national anthem playing alongside, Sravya got the answer – all the effort, sacrifices, and pain are worth it. "That moment, life is like a movie and everything is in slow motion," says Sravya unable to put her emotions into words. "The ones who make it through the bad days will only get to see the good days," she says.

Sravya is recovering from a hip injury. She went back to training on Monday after a two-month gap.

Rohan Boppanna: From icon to coach

In 2019, Sravya moved to the Rohan Bopanna Tennis Training Academy in Bangalore. "How does it feel when a celebrity is hanging out with you? But he is very down-to-earth. He cares for the players and shares a good bond with us," says Sravya.

She adds that we need more coaches like him. "When a world player like him is playing with you, you put in more effort. It is the drive or inspiration that every player should get. He even shares his stories and experiences with us," she says.

With Rohan Bopanna

At the Bopanna Training institute, she practises for almost 10 hours every day, including two hours of fitness sessions.

Sravya's recent achievement has been winning the doubles titles at the nationals with Sharmada Balu in October 2021. In September, both of them had won the doubles title at the International Tennis Federation Tournament in Tunisia. "International tournaments help you meet and make a lot of friends. One of the lessons they teach you is that the sport is the same everywhere. No matter the skin colour, at the end you are also just hitting the ball like the other player," says Sravya.

There is light at the end of the tunnel

Sravya reiterates that she comes from a very privileged family. But to all the girls out there who are unable to take up sporting as their career despite being passionate about it due to financial, social, or any other challenges, she says, "Don't let society put you down. Keep fighting, keep going, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is very hard to fight for your place, but always count on yourself," adds Sravya.

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