I was born in Chennai, but my schooldays were spent pretty much in the Gulf. Dad had a transferable job so I went to school in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Muscat. My introduction to tennis was at the age of three. I didnt have an option really, as Dad used to take me to the club regularly. As I grew up, it got tougher and tougher to manage tennis and studies at the same time.
The normal day in my childhood started with a light session of tennis with Dad keeping watch over me. It was straight to school from there and back to the courts for a couple of hours in the evening. Then, of course, there was this tedious business of homework. By the time I settled down with my books, I was so tired that on most evenings I fell asleep without much progress with my studies. Life wasnt a bed of roses at all, and in Class IX I had to give up school and complete my studies privately.
During those difficult schooldays, I was lucky since the principal and all the teachers were really nice. They all knew that my father was the top tennis player in the Gulf and I was his protégé. I was never refused permission to go for tournaments. Of course, I didnt get any special favours as far as punishment was concerned, but when it came to tennis, they supported me all the way. When I won my first tournament at the age of 10, the principal called me on stage during assembly and announced my win to the whole school. It was an embarrassing moment, and my teachers seemed to be more proud than I was.
I couldnt make too many friends at school and thats one of my biggest regrets. I console myself by saying that now Im making so many friends on the tennis circuit. I also missed out on growing up in my own country.
Life may have been different had my father not pushed me into tennis. But Im glad he did it, because whatever I have achieved so far has made me forget what may have been.