Located along the Chennai-Thanjavur National Highway is Neyveli, a small township famous for two powerhouses — the Neyveli thermal powerplant and IB Akshay, a former top ranked U-16 tennis player in the country.
The 21-year-old is a software developer in Chennai who credits his passion for tennis to his father. “He used play for a club; payed a few tournaments, but never into something serious,” says Akshay, “He used to play after work and take me and my brother along. Watching him play at an early age inspired me to take up tennis.”
It was no surprise then that Akshay took up the racquet soon and by the time he was nine, he had already won his first title - a singles crown at a U-10 tournament. “That first victory was special. It almost sparked something within myself and since that day my father took me to the court every single day after school to practice,” he says.
Over the next two years, Akshay would travel across the country for a series of U-14 tournaments, something he believes helped immensely in building his confidence at that young age. “There is no substitute for match practice. Playing all over the country gave me the confidence to pursue the sport on a competitive level. Moreover, the exposure also helped in improving my game,” says Akshay who has been trained by his dad from the first day.
His relentless efforts not only earned him a place in the top 20 in the Indian U-14 category but also secured a sponsorship from Head, the Dutch sports company.
While his career graph was growing upwards he also learned to deal with defeats. “Once you play against quality players, losing is inevitable sometimes. Whenever I lost a match, I would go back and cry but the next day I would be the first one on the court trying to work on my game.”
Currently engaged in a full-time job, Akshay plays invitational tournaments whenever time permits and practices in Chennai. However, his future plans include a Masters programme in Europe where he wants to pursue his passion — tennis. “Passion and career are two different things. When I play tennis for an hour I feel like I am on top of the world. Tennis helps me in staying focused and the ultimate thing is that it gives me happiness. Isn’t that what everyone is looking for?” says the Rafael Nadal fan.