Cayman’s tennis sensation Panav Jha is progressing nicely in Canada as he completes the first year of his $85,000 scholarship.
Jha, 16, learnt the basics here but so fast was his development that he was given a one-year opportunity towards realising his dream of becoming a world class pro.
Jha was coached mainly by Eduardo Torres here. With support from the Cayman Government he got as far as he could but to move up a notch he needed to go abroad.
He’s already been on tours to Europe and South America and in the four months since visiting his family here, Jha has achieved a lot.
Under the tutelage of French coach Guillaume Marx, Jha’s all round fitness and technique has improved considerably at the Montreal National Training Centre.
They have already assured him of his place at the centre for another year.
‘I’ve travelled quite a bit and done two tours,’ he said. ‘One was in Central America; Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala. I wasn’t playing so well then but I still managed land in the last 16 of tournaments, semi-finals and doubles.
‘I came back and changed my habits. I wasn’t focused. I was still training hard but not seeing my goals clearly. So I fixed my goals, reasserted myself and got back at it.
‘Then I went to Edmonton and Vancouver. The first tournament I made the semi-finals and won the doubles. I played really well in that. In the semi I lost to someone I could have beaten but I blew a few chances.
‘Second tournament I redeemed myself and won the singles and doubles, playing probably the best tennis of my life so far. It was an International Tennis Federation Under-18. Winning an ITF at my age is quite an achievement.
‘ITF holds all the Grand Slams, Junior Wimbledon… Hopefully, by next year I’ll be ranked in the top 200 and be able to play in Grand Slams.’
Inspired by Roger Federer, Jha wants to emulate the world No.1 and win every Grand Slam out there. Even though Spaniard Rafael Nadal is closing the gap on Federer and could soon be the new No.1, the Swiss player remains his idol. For now.
Jha is taking a few days off to spend time with his family and enjoy mum Monisha’s home cooking. Then he’s going to get back into training to prepare for the Canada Under-16 and U-18 championships.
‘The 18s is going to be a challenge but in the 16s I think I can do well. Me and another guy at the training centre, Nikolai Hassig, normally place in the top four in Canada. He’s my doubles partner.
‘I hope to get to top four in the 18s and hopefully I’ll win the 16s. After that I’ve got one of the biggest tournaments in Canada. It’s right before the US Open so everyone plays it.’
Another reason for doing well in the nationals is that if he gets to the latter stages, Jha will get to rub shoulders with some of the world’s top male players in Toronto, including Federer and Nadal. (The women play a separate tournament in Montreal.)
Jha needs to improve his ranking to get into the US Open, but he feels he’s not far off that level. ‘If I do really well in this tournament I might get a wild card for the US Open. I don’t think that will happen.
‘I’m aiming just to prove my ranking and then in September we’re going to be training for a whole month back in Montreal and then we’ve got a Florida tournament and some of the most important ones of the year.
‘Right now I’m concentrating on improving my ranking which has improved a lot and play good tennis.’