Mikhail Kukushkin

October 24, 2021

“I started to play tennis at the age of six. My father was a tennis coach. He brought me on the court when I was young, and he coached me until I was 17 years old.  My family didn’t have a lot of money, so I didn’t have a lot of opportunities because I was in a small-town, nothing else to look for — I was always playing tennis. I had just one dream to be a good tennis player. Until I was 17, I was not sure if I was able to go all the way. I was not sure of myself because I didn’t have enough support. Then of course, when I reached the top 200 in the world, I understood that I could be a good player. When I started to travel to the futures and challengers, I couldn’t take my father as a coach. I was always traveling with no coach and struggling financially. It was a lot of pressure on myself because I knew I had to play well, otherwise all the sacrifices that my parents made throughout my career when I was young, it was for nothing. I had some pressure. Of course, I (more…)

Leander Paes

October 17, 2021

“I grew up in a family where my father won a medal in the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and he played field hockey. My mother on the other hand, all 5’1″ of her, captain of the Indian basketball team. Every Sunday, I used to wake up in the morning after church and polish my dad’s Olympic medal. It’s not rocket science that I wanted to play for India and represent 1.3 billion Indians to prove that we could be Olympic champions in an individual sport. My whole journey was about patriotism. It has been about playing for my people and it has been about inspiring 1 billion-plus people that we can be world champions on the global stage.  I realized that tennis was my vehicle and that if I wanted to get to the Olympics, I really had to persevere. I put my head down. I worked really hard for three years and in the summer of 1990, I won Junior Wimbledon. In February of 1990, I met another young Indian kid. I said to him, “Would you like to win Wimbledon?” He laughed at me and he said, “You’re crazy.” I said, “I know I’m crazy, but would you (more…)

Ankita Raina

October 7, 2021

“My mom has always been a sports enthusiast. I think that’s where I kind of started. I have an older brother who’s four years older than me, so he first got into the sport. We had a tennis academy right behind our house — we could literally see it from our window. Once I turned four, I was introduced I was in the top five rank in India. When I was under 16, I was selected in the Junior Fed Cup team. I think that was one of the moments where it was like it’s a dream for anyone to represent your country or play for your country. I think that’s rare. My mother’s support and my brother’s support, family support was really important.  I feel I’m very patriotic. Whenever I play Fed Cup, whenever I’m representing the country, I’ve always seen that my best results have come. Normally, you are representing your country, but it’s still individual. Every time, I always look forward to Fed Cup weeks because life on the road is very lonely. When you’re playing these team events, you have the whole team, you have other players and all the support. I don’t know. I see (more…)