It’s all about sac­ri­fice for VI­ENNA

mailife - - Sports - By PHOEBE SCHENK Pho­tos by IVAMERE ROKOVESA

AT just 17, Vi­enna Ku­mar has al­ready achieved more than many oth­ers. In Jan­uary 2016, she was the first Pa­cific player to not only win the Un­der 16s Mar­garet Court Cup and the Vic­to­rian Ju­nior Grass Courts Cham­pi­onships, but did so back to back. ‘At the time I was ac­tu­ally at the bot­tom of the board, but I made an ex­tra ef­fort to train in the two months be­fore to im­prove my game. I put in the hard work and it paid off,” she said. It cer­tainly did. Vi­enna re­calls be­ing awarded the hon­our of do­ing the coin toss at the open­ing match of the Aus­tralian Open for Roger Fed­erer, the longest­stand­ing World Num­ber One. “It was quite over­whelm­ing. Roger came over to me and shook my hand and said ‘I am very pleased to meet you’. I re­mem­ber sheep­ishly look­ing back and say­ing ‘no, I am very pleased to meet you’. I will never for­get that ex­pe­ri­ence.” Most re­cently, she has rep­re­sented Fiji at last month’s Youth Com­mon­wealth Games in the sin­gles and in the dou­bles event with part­ner Se­bas­tian Tikaram. “Dou­bles is all about un­der­stand­ing your part­ner and com­mu­ni­cat­ing well. Ini­tially I didn’t like dou­bles be­cause I hated com­ing to the net and vol­ley­ing, but grad­u­ally with train­ing I have be­come more con­fi­dent with it.” Though she cur­rently en­joys high level coach­ing as part of her schol­ar­ship with the In­ter­na­tional Tennis Foun­da­tion, Vi­enna re­mem­bers first be­ing in­tro­duced to the sport by her grand­mother when she was nine years old. “It was re­ally her who would take me to the courts and ei­ther play with me or wait around while I had my coach­ing. Af­ter that there was no stop­ping me – I grew to love the sport.” Her mother was also a keen player, but Vi­enna says she never felt pres­sured to fol­low in the fam­ily foot­steps. “Of course, it has in­flu­enced me a lot. But nei­ther my grand­mother nor my mother played at na­tional level so in­stead they have fully sup­ported me from the side lines – or on the courts as my ‘ball ma­chine’.” The rest of her fam­ily – two sis­ters and a brother – have been equally sup­port­ive and Vi­enna at­tributes this as key to her suc­cess. “I could not imag­ine what it would be like with­out a sup­port­ive back­ing, which is so im­por­tant to al­low you to fo­cus on your sport.”

With four hours of coach­ing daily, bal­anc­ing school work and friend­ships along­side reg­u­lar matches on Satur­days, Vi­enna ad­mits it hasn’t al­ways been easy to keep a level head. “It’s re­ally dif­fi­cult as a teenager to have to give up time with your friends. I mean when all your friends are go­ing to the movies on a Satur­day morn­ing and you can­not go as you have tennis train­ing, that hurts. Though I must ad­mit I have not been the per­fect child,’ she laughed. “A cou­ples of times I have stayed out with friends longer than I should – no de­tails men­tioned! But that is the kind of pres­sure I am up against when train­ing hard and hav­ing to bal­ance my school work.” When asked if she had any words of wis­dom to give to other young ath­letes just start­ing out, Vi­enna says she wishes she could pass the same mes­sages on to her younger self. “Dis­ci­pline is the key. Keep at it every day and al­ways write down your goals to look at fre­quently – I find this helps me a lot. I would also ad­vise them to have a firm be­lief in God be­cause this will carry you through in the times when you are feel­ing down and your con­fi­dence is not where it should be. My Mum al­ways tell me to pray be­fore and in­vite the Holy Spirit to be part of my game, and I know that all the op­por­tu­ni­ties that have come my way are God given. I can­not even be­gin to ex­plain all of them.” Along­side her im­pres­sive sport­ing achieve­ments, Vi­enna as­pires to be­come a pathol­o­gist and is leav­ing in Jan­uary 2018 to study at a uni­ver­sity in the USA for two years. In the mean­time, she is rep­re­sent­ing Fiji Tennis at the Asian Games in Septem­ber and hopes to make the squad for the up­com­ing Pa­cific Mini Games. In the face of it all, Vi­enna re­mains en­dear­ingly down to earth, laugh­ing as she re­calls her friends cut­ting out news­pa­per ar­ti­cles of her to paste on the school no­tice­board. “I tend to joke about it like it is noth­ing. I have learnt to do this be­cause I can’t cel­e­brate for too long. Once one tour­na­ment is over I am al­ready train­ing for the next one.”

Vi­enna pur­su­ing her pas­sion in tennis.

Vi­enna with her sup­port­ive mum Cather­ine.

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