Indian tennis star Prithvi Sekhar who represented India at the Deaflympics in 2013 and 2017 recently spoke at length about his career and his journey, his struggles as a deaf athlete in India and his plans ahead. He also threw light on his milestones including him becoming the men’s singles champion in the World Deaf Tennis Championship in Antalya, Turkey in 2019.
27-year-old Prithvi who was born in Chennai went on to represent India in two Deaflympics in 2013 and 2017. He teamed up with Jafreen Shaik to win a historic bronze medal in the mixed doubles at the 2017 Summer Deaflympics, marking India’s first-ever Deaflympics medal in tennis. In a recent interaction on Sports Tiger’s show ‘Building Bridge’, Prithvi spoke about his first Deaflympics in 2013 and how his mother came to know about the Deaflympics in 2013 and sent him to the nationals in Aurangabad where he won a gold medal in singles as well as doubles and hence got selected to represent the country. Prithvi said, “When I went there, I was so happy to win a gold in singles and gold in doubles. I was so proud of it to get selected to represent India to play for the Deaflympics.”
On being asked about the government’s role in the upliftment of tennis in the category, he expressed his grief on not getting proper encouragement and said, “When I won the first medal in 2017 in Deaflympics, no one congratulated me. There is only support for normal Olympics and Paralympics.” He also mentioned that he had applied for the Arjuna award but was not considered, not even a single deaf athlete received the award this year. This is after him winning a medal in Deaflympics in 2017 and after being the men’s singles champion in the World Deaf Tennis Championship in 2019.
Another career milestone came last year when unseeded Prithvi defeated four seeded players including top seed Gabor Mathe of Hungary in the semi-finals to become the men’s singles champion in the World Deaf Tennis Championship in Antalya, Turkey. He spoke about his victory at the world championship “I was so happy and proud of it that I won the gold medal. It was my biggest achievement.”
Prithvi also spoke about his early days and said, “Basically, I was not born as a normal child, I was born like a child who couldn’t hear anything, so my parents took me to a school called —Bala Vidyalaya. All the teachers supported me and helped me to communicate and learn.” Post his initial school days, Prithvi moved to a CBSE school and started playing tennis at the age of 8. Prithvi also completed his MBA in 2017 and was appointed by ICF which is a part of Railways, who he represented in several tournaments.
Prithvi, who was felicitated with the International Sportsman of the Year award by the Italy-based International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD) in 2019 wants to break in the Top 500 in the ATP ranking. He said, “My aim is focused on normal tournaments like AITA, ITF and see whether I can get into grand slams or not. My next aim is to earn a gold medal and do my best in the next Deaflympics in Brazil in 2021. Another aim is to break in the Top 600 or 500 in the ATP ranking and see if I can do it or not.”