“Initially, it was not easy for me to overcome my physical difficulties, but I had faith in myself.” All of 26, Prithvi Sekhar’s indomitable grit is definitely taking him places. Prithvi was recently crowned the men’s singles champion at the World Deaf Tennis Championships in Antalya, Turkey. Not only has he transcended the world of sports for the disabled, even while helping the movement reach unprecedented heights, Prithvi is one of a rare handful of athletes to transcend the world of sport.
‘Best yet to come in me’
Deaf by birth, only a few could have predicted just how integral he would become to the narrative of tennis competitions for the disabled. Prithvi, wise beyond his years, possesses a certain sense of calmness and the aura is sure to rub off on you. Soaking up all the praise that has been crossing his way post his recent feat at the World Championships, he says, “I am very happy and proud to have won the medal. I was confident of performing well there. I was eyeing on the gold medal from the beginning and knew the best was yet to come.”
Not letting disability become a hurdle
In 2017, Prithvi paired with Jafreen Shaikh of Hyderabad to win the first-ever medal for India in tennis at Deaflympics. This was perhaps the turning point for the then 24-year-old Prithvi, a significant period from which he milked self-confidence and intrinsic knowledge of his own abilities and qualities. “Winning the country’s first medal at Deaf Olympics motivated me to do better in the future. The bronze medal in 2017 had a big role to play at the World Deaf Championships in Turkey. Besides, I have performed exceptionally well at the World Railways tournament, again winning the gold medal. My ranking in All India Tennis Association (AITA) has improved to top 30,” says a visibly enthusiastic Prithvi, who has completed his MBA from SRM University and is currently employed in Integral Coach Factory (ICF) with the help of sports quota.
However, the journey hasn’t always been smooth for the Chennai native. Having to completely hinge on a hearing aid, he says he loves playing tennis against regular players. Prithvi had a slew of difficult decisions to make when he initially started out but isn’t that what makes his pursuit all the more worthwhile? Definitely, yes.
Djokovic, an inspiration beyond compare
Staunchly believing that inspiration is all around for one to find, Prithvi adds, “There are a few tennis players I look up to. I follow their success stories. For instance, Djokovic has had really difficult situations to deal with. I look up to him.” So, what’s next? As the pressure mounts with every milestone that he crosses, Prithvi is pinning all his hopes on disciplined training for his forthcoming pursuits, namely, the ITF tournament in Thailand, Asian Pacific Deaf Games and a few others.
Ask Prithvi who is his favourite tennis player and pat comes the reply, “Federer and Djokovic”. On being asked whether he finds himself playing and winning matches on the prestigious ATP tour like Lee Duck-Hee, he elaborates, “I have been playing ITF tournaments across the world for the last four years. I have advanced to the main draws at ITF tournaments. I am hopeful of performing even better in the future.”
Disable sportspeople, long relegated to the shadows in India, now find themselves hog the limelight. What this new-found identity has done is to highlight the ambitions of differently-abled athletes like Prithvi, and their ability to overcome all metaphoric hurdles that get in their way. On being asked what his message to other players in the deaf arena would be, he avers, “Never stop trying. You only start failing when you stop trying. Because one day, you will achieve it. You must not lose hope but keep faith in yourself.“