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How a Haryana farmer's son went from village mud courts to becoming National tennis champion

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SportsCafe Desk


From the mud courts of Gohana, 13-year old Ajay Malik has emerged as the new national tennis champion fighting his way up without the support of any high-class infrastructure or facilities. Sharpening his skills on his father's agricultural field, Malik's journey is truly inspirational.

At the just-concluded National Tennis Championship at the DLTA Complex, Ajay Malik, a boy from the rural parts of Gohana Tehsil in Haryana, had won the Under-14 boys singles title. But, the journey the boy had made to get there is worth noticing.

According to an article published by The Times of India, his father, Ajmer Malik, is a retired Subedar from Indian Army, was unable to afford bananas and electrolytes for his son in between the breaks. But Ajay had no complaints whatsoever as he took only water during the game and set breaks en route to his title.

Starting to play tennis at the tender age of 10, Ajay is coached by his cousin Sombir Malik, who learnt the game by watching matches on television but quit after encountering tennis elbow issues.

The net used for the mud courts at the Netaji Subash Chandra Bose Sansthan, the academy run by Ajay's father, is supported by electricity poles, which are felled repeatedly due to rain and strong winds. The lines on the courts are not drawn by lime powder but by nylon ropes to survive the weather conditions.

Tyres ranging from 5kg to 100kg are used for weight training and wrist strength is developed by climbing on thick ropes, dangling between two huge cement pillars. In the age where world-class facilities and state-of-the-art equipment are considered mandatory to make a champion, the simple training methods employed by Ajmer Malik are worth applauding.

Ajmer, who himself was a national level wrestler, has confidence in his training regimen. But DLTA coach Arun Kumar, who has been instrumental in Ajay's development, says that the training base needs to shift in some time.

"With this tough training, he definitely has developed endurance but what about speed. He is mentally tough that is why he survived on just water during nationals but he needs tactical exposure. He has right technique but you know top players finish points in 7 to 10 seconds. That's a different training method which he would need in near future," Arun, who had coached many junior Indian team players, told TOI.

Ajay considers Roger Federer as his idol and has once seen India's tennis star Ramkumar Ramanathan playing.