(February 9, 2024) As a six year old, when Pushti Laddha held a tennis racquet for the first time, she fell in love with the sport instantly. Her parents, both huge tennis fans, only encouraged her to pursue it. Hardly three years later, Pushti was out on the tennis court playing her first tournament, surprising the audience with her aces.
Ever since, she has proved her mettle in several tournaments and is now one of the most promising tennis stars of the country. “Every win is special and every loss is the best teacher,” smiles tennis player Pushti Laddha, speaking to Global Indian.
From playing Nationals to being selected for the Road to Wimbledon in 2020 and playing in the ITF (International Tennis Federation) World Tennis tour (Junior Circuit), Pushti has come a long way. The latest feather in her cap was leading the Telangana State Tennis contingent as the U-19 Team Captain at the inaugural ceremony of the 67th National Games held at Jodhpur recently.
Leading the team
“Jodhpur was a great experience. There were moments in the tournament where we had to fight through and moments where we had fairly easy wins,” says the teenager, who holds a career high ranking of 525 in the ITF, junior girls category. Her All-India ranking stands at 38 in the girls U-18 category.
Looking back, it was all worth it and leading the team into the finals was a great feeling, she says soon after her return from Jodhpur. “Though we fell short in the end, there are a lot of experiences to take away from the tournament and it definitely feels amazing to bag the silver for the state while also clutching gold in the individual event,” says Pushti, a class 12 student of Obul Reddy public school, Hyderabad.
On top of her game
Having played professional tennis for past 10 years, Pushti has remained on top of her game throughout. She ranked first in the Telangana state Tennis Association (under-10 and Under-12 category) and has an AITA (All India Tennis Association) playing experience of over 6 years. Based in Hyderabad, she toured all over the country to play various AITA series and has so far played 50 AITA tournaments.
Among the many tournaments she played, the one that stands out for Pushti was the nationals that was held in New Delhi in 2021. “This tournament was especially challenging because I went in with almost no practice for three weeks and lacked confidence. I was not in proper shape to play, so I did not expect much,” recalls the tennis player.
In her first match, the score was 2-5 and she was three match points down against a really tough opponent, but she clutched the game by winning the next 11 games in a row. “Winning that match and reaching the next round gave me a significant boost in confidence. In fact, I won the next 3 rounds after that, beating incredible opponents,” smiles the youngster.
That tournament gave her an experience she will never forget. “It taught me the importance of never giving up and why it’s important to always believe in oneself even in the toughest moments,” informs Pushti, who got the opportunity to meet the President of India for outstanding achievements in sports and academics on Children’s day in 2019.
Growing up in Hyderabad
Born in Hyderabad in December 2006, Pushti Laddha is the daughter of senior IPS officer Mahesh Chandra Laddha and Sunita Laddha. She studied at the Meridian School in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad.
When it comes to her academics, Pushti is an equally bright student who has always scored high. “I secured 97.6 per cent in Class X, which was among the top five,” shares a beaming Pushti, who even topped her class for last eight years. She was also appointed as deputy sports secretary in Meridian school.
She was awarded the best all-rounder, Math-a-Magician and general proficiency certificates consecutively for the last four years by her school. She also won gold medalist in the Euphoria Sports Fest inter-school tennis championship in 2018 and went on to receive the young Achievers award for excellence in sports and academics by Metamorphosis.
“I have plans to pursue higher studies and my family, being completely supportive, has been helping me with decisions,” says the budding tennis star, who was also awarded the Star pupil award in Grade X in a batch of 150 students.
Pushti Laddha makes it a point to practice for 4-5 hours everyday which includes tennis and gym sessions. “Tennis sessions are generally in the morning for 2-2.5 hours after which I attend school, followed by fitness sessions. I have coaches with whom I work out a schedule for each day and also for the week,” informs the teenager, who trains with her coach Praveen Bhargava at the Ace tennis academy in Hyderabad.
Throughout her tennis journey, Pushti faced multiple challenges and overcame it. “Challenges arise in every part of the journey, be it injuries or balancing sports with academics. I have realised that discipline is the only way to overcome them all,” says Pushti.