Not just on wing and a prayer!

Not just on wing and a prayer!

Not just on wing and a prayer!

Last November 26, the day when the deadliest terror struck Mumbai, across the border in Islamabad, Poojashree Venkatesha kept the tri-colour flying by eking out her maiden ITF title triumph. She then celebrated Independence Day this year by winning her second career crown in New Delhi. The Bangalorean’s newest trophy, the third in her silverware, has given her a lot of satisfaction as it came at her home turf on Saturday.

The lanky 19-year-old realised her long cherished dream of winning a major title in Bangalore by triumphing in the ITF meet at the KSLTA courts. “For me, all three titles are important in one way or other,” said Poojashree, who beat Slovenian Dalila Jakupovic in the summit clash.

“The first came on the day of the Mumbai attack, then the second on Independence Day. But the third title infront of my home crowd gives me even more satisfaction.

“I realised my childhood dream of winning a major title in Bangalore. Winning at home is a wonderful experience.” For the second time in her career, Poojashree won a double when she teamed up with Isha Lakhani to clinch the doubles title too.

Reliving her moments in Islamabad, Poojashree said it was a very difficult situation as she was caught in two minds whether to celebrate or mourn. “I heard the news of the attack just after the match. I was caught in two minds whether to celebrate or mourn. It was my first major title and I couldn’t celebrate. We felt sad and we were also scared because we were in Islamabad. We had a tough time there,” recalled Poojashree.
Poojashree, however, had to wait till this year’s Independence Day to actually start celebrating her triumphs. “I played one of my best matches in Delhi. I beat Emily Webley-Smith of Great Britain in a rain-affected match. I was overwhelmed with joy. At last, I could celebrate my title win,” revealed Poojashree, who also won the doubles title there with Sanaa Bhambri.

Blessed with a height of six-foot-one, Poojashree -- who will see her ranking going up from 416 -- said she acquired the ‘never give in’ attitude after playing in the Junior Grand Slams. “Playing in the Junior Grand Slams was a great experience.

“You have to play at your best. I learned to fight till the last point after playing in the Slams. Meeting and watching great players (senior Grand Slams are played simultaneously) helped gain motivation,” said Poojashree.

Though she is quite slow on the court, Poojashree covers up that weakness with her long reach and powerful forehand. “I am not a fast mover on the court. I am working on my fitness and movements,” said Poojashree, who idolises Russian ace Maria Sharapova.
Poojashree learned the nuances of tennis at the age of nine from father Venkatesha, a businessman, and later fined-tuned her skills under the tutelage of Nagaraj, the head coach of Mysore’s Garden Tennis Club. “My dad was behind me taking up tennis. He used to take me to the Garden Tennis Club everyday. Later on, tennis became an automatic choice for me,” she recollected.

Poojashree, who aims to play on the WTA Tour, targets a place in the top 200 inside one year. “Next up for me is Delhi and then Dehradun. There is a chance for me to play in Nigeria, but it depends on my performance in the next two ITF tourneys.
“My priority is to play on the WTA Tour, but for that, I must first improve my ranking. My target is to get inside 200 by next year.”