KIYG: Gujarat's late bloomer Dhruv Hirpara pockets boys singles tennis gold

DN Bureau

Dhruv Hirpara had probably never heard of the term 'Catch them Young'. Otherwise, he might have never tried his hand at tennis.

Dhruv Hirpara pockets boys singles tennis gold
Dhruv Hirpara pockets boys singles tennis gold

Panchkula (Haryana): Dhruv Hirpara had probably never heard of the term 'Catch them Young'. Otherwise, he might have never tried his hand at tennis. The boy from Tori Gaon in Amreli district of Gujarat had not even held a tennis racquet till he was 13. He would probably have never played the sport had his parents not taken the tough decision of sending him to a boarding school to ensure he gets a better education.

But it was in that school that he learned the ropes of the sport and on Saturday showcased his prowess by beating Rushil Khosla of Uttar Pradesh in straight sets to clinch the Boy's Singles title at the Khelo India Youth Games 2021.

Explaining the circumstances under which he started playing tennis, Dhruv said, "I was so home-sick that I asked my parents to take me back home. But that is when I was introduced to tennis by school coach Parimal Sangani and I decided to stay back and focus on making a career in the sport."

Dhruv trained at the Space International School in Jetpur for a couple of years before shifting base to RH Kapadia Tennis Academy in Ahmedabad to train under Vaidik Munshaw. Since then, he has bagged four AITA titles and even won the ITF Junior J5 event in Bhillai last year.

Though his talent wasn't in doubt, Dhruv knew he needed to prove his talent on the big stage to attract the attention of the government and sponsors to start focusing on the senior ITF circuit. But when his doubles partner decided to skip the Khelo India Youth Games and go to Europe to play tournaments, he felt that another chance to garner support was lost.

"I had only qualified for the doubles event for Khelo India and I was disappointed that I would have to miss out on this competition. But then three weeks ago, I learnt that I have got an entry in the singles event after a couple of withdrawals and I decided to come here and prove that I am no pushover," he said.

Dhruv did not drop a set en route to the final but was staring down the barrel in the opening set of his final against Khosla once the left-handed broke his serve to take a 4-2 lead. But the 18-year-old broke his opponent's next serve on love to restore parity and never looked back from there on.

Khosla twice took a medical time out and even served underarm while trying to save the first set. It did disturb Dhruv's rhythm but he managed to keep his nerves when it mattered the most. "I was feeling the pressure and made mistakes.

But I was determined that I would not let go of this advantage and focussed on keeping the ball in play," he added. Dhruv is now hoping that he could get funding under the Gujarat Government's Shaktidoot Scheme that will allow him to focus on his senior international career in the second half of the year. As to his target on the world tennis stage, Dhruv wants to be realistic and take one step at a time.(ANI)

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