'Tennis is my life'

Young player

After winning a gold medal in doubles, and third position in singles at the Slovenia Deaf Tennis Open (held at Portoroz between September 8 – 11, this year), 19-year-old Jafreen Shaik dreams of winning big at the Deaf Olympics 2017, at
Samsun, Turkey in July 2017. “I would try to win a gold medal and make India and my parents proud. For it, I am currently concentrating on my rigorous training and focussing on improving my AITA (All India Tennis Association) and ITF (Indian Tennis Federation) rankings,” Shaik, tells Metrolife, in an email interaction, after winning the doubles title.

Paired with Patiala’s Parul Gupta, the duo won over Jana Janosikova of Slovenia and Tutem Banguoglu of Turkey, with a score of 2-6, 6-4, 10-6 in the final of the event organised by the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf. In singles, Shaik secured third position with a score 6.1, 6.0 against Banguoglu.

The Kurnool-born developed a liking for the game at the age of eight years and since then has never looked back. “Though my father, Shaik Zakeer Ahmed, was into cricket, he had a friend, Md Farooq, who was a tennis coach. I used to accompany my father to the tennis courts and my interest in the game was kindled,” she says, adding, “Tennis is my life.”

Despite being born with a hearing disability, she has continued training for the game along with pursuing her studies.

“Though most of my time is spent on training and playing tennis, I also try to give due attention to my academics where I have done decently well,” says the BA second year student of Osmania Degree College, Kurnool city, Andhra Pradesh.

From winning bronze in the Women Doubles Tennis event, in the 8th Asian Pacific Deaf Games held at Taiyuan City, Taiwan in 2015, to winning a gold at AP State Level Women Sports Competitions held at Anantapur in February, this year, Shaik, who idolises Sania Mirza, has consistently performed at national and international levels.

“I wake up at 4.30 in the morning and spend time studying. Thereafter, I exercise for an hour from 6 to 7am. My tennis practice and coaching is divided into two sessions where first one is from 7.30 to 10.30 am, and the other in the evening from 3 to 5 pm. For power training, I go to the gym for an hour in the evening,” points out Shaik.

While seeking support through newspapers and other media, Shaik came in touch with Asbah, a rice brand which supports talented sports women from across the country.

“Asbah is helping me by sponsoring the training kit and has paid all my expenses which were incurred for the tournament,” says Shaik.

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