It’s all about sacrifice for VIENNA
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.