August 21, Kathmandu. Former Nepal number one tennis player Abhishek Bastola had to move abroad when his career in the country was taking off. Abhishek, who came to the US in 2016 at the age of 18, is working hard to fulfill his dream of playing the Grand Slam after missing out on a chance to play professional tennis in Nepal.
The biggest tournament in tennis is the Grand Slam. Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open are the four Grand Slam tournaments held in a year. For direct selection in this tournament, one must be in the top 200 of the World Tennis Ranking (ATP). Amidst many challenges including financial crunch, visa problem, Abhishek is moving towards his ultimate goal.
‘Grand Slam is my ultimate goal. You can’t get there in one go. I am moving slowly for him, there is a lot of competition, I have not lost hope,’ said Abhishek, Division One tennis player of University Sports under the American Tennis System in an interaction with News Online.
24-year-old Abhishek Mahendrapool of Pokhara became Nepal’s number one at the age of 15. He has represented Nepal in three major international competitions. He was part of the Nepalese team at the 17th Asian Games in 2014 and the 18th Asian Games in 2018. He played in the 12th South Asian Games in India in 2016. He returned from America and won the qualifying event for the 18th Asian Games. In 2013, Abhishek also got a chance to represent Nepal in the Youth Asian Games held in China.
Having acquired sufficient skills at a young age, he came to America with the goal of becoming a professional player. After studying at ASA College Miami for the first year after arriving, he joined the University of Texas Arlington on a student scholarship for one year from 2017. Abhishek, who went to St. Mary’s College in San Francisco on a full scholarship, represented the same college and played in the Division One Tennis Series. “After I graduate, I am looking for ranking competitions and participating in them,” he said.
Aim to play Grand Slam in five years
Tennis is an expensive sport. Trying to advance in professional sports abroad is challenging in itself. Same happened with Abhishek. Even if you get a scholarship to study at the university, you will still have to pay the necessary expenses for the sport yourself.
Now Abhishek has nothing but tennis in his daily life. They also train when there is no competition. This will solve their financial crisis to some extent. They spend four hours a day training, two hours in the gym, recovery and yoga.
‘Here I am doing everything myself. My financial capacity is not enough to hire a coach and a physio. It costs 50 to 70 thousand dollars to travel throughout the year’ Abhishek says, ‘I have not found any sponsor yet. I am doing part-time training so that it becomes easier to meet my own expenses. If he gets any sponsorship then he wants to focus on his career.
Abhishek has not been included in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings. For that as many ranked competitions should be played. Even playing in the University Tennis Rating (DHUTR) series makes it easy to get into the rankings. In addition, the ITF Pro Circuit is the first tournament to enter the ATP. Abhishek says, “The ITF Pro Circuit hosts over 300 tournaments a year. As you play tournament after tournament and accumulate points, it becomes easier to rank in the ATP.
Being a Nepalese passport holder, Abhishek faced visa and timing problems to play ranking tournaments across the world. In ranked tournaments, the organizers themselves select the players. ‘Even if you apply for a tournament outside the US, you are not guaranteed to be able to play. However, you will need to apply for a visa to that country in advance. Abhishek said that even after getting the visa, if he is not able to play in the tournament, then it will be an expense. Their goal is to participate and rank in the best competition in the United States.
Abhishek has set the ultimate goal of playing Grand Slam in the next five years. He is in the early stages for this. The immediate goal is to increase the numbers. ‘The age of 29/30 is the time when you can be at your best in your tennis career. Till then, if I can get below 200 in the ATP rankings, I will be Nepal’s first Grand Slam player,” said Abhishek, who is in California, USA, “That is my ultimate goal. I am making way for it.
ready to play for nepal anytime
Not much is known about the Nepal Tennis Association, who has had the opportunity to participate in four important international tournaments between 2013 and 2013. The association’s general secretary Manohar Mool said that even though Abhishek is playing professional tennis from the US, the association is not aware of his latest status.
However, Abhishek has said that he is ready to play for Nepal at any time. It is my dream to play for Nepal. I want to represent Nepal even if I come to America to improve my abilities and standards. Abhishek said that I will be available whenever the association wants.
His goal is to play from Asian Games to Olympics. The players have been selected for the 19th Asian Games to be held in China next year. Abhishek is not in Nepal team. He said that Afu did not know about this. If players trying to pursue professional tennis living in the US represent Nepal at the international level, the chances of a medal will be higher.