If you are a young, aspiring tennis player, you would be hard pressed to find a player more worthy of idolizing than Rafael Nadal. His tenacity on the court, unrelenting work ethic and the classy way in which he approaches his profession are all enviable traits any young person should mirror.
One of those young players is Aryan Badlani, a Rising Freshman from New York.
“He’s been my favorite player since day one,” said Badlani, who, like his idol, is also a lefty. “He has a fighting spirit he brings to every match, no matter how good or bad he may be playing in that moment. He always brings 100 percent.”
Badlani has tried to implement those same characteristics into his tennis game. He got his start in tennis when he was around four-years-old, playing with his older brother on the little 10 & Under tennis nets. After a brief hiatus away from the game, he continued playing after a neighbor needed one more player for a class they were going to.
“They asked if I wanted to join and so I accepted,” Badlani recalls. “That was when I was about eight-years-old. I joined the class, and have been playing ever since...I love tennis. I like how everything depends on you and you have to rely on yourself. Except in doubles, tennis is not a team sport you can rely on somebody else if you need to, and I really enjoy that individualistic aspect of it.”
For the last three years, Badlani has been training at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, honing his game in the same location as the world’s top players when they play at the U.S. Open each year. Badlani has a strong net game, and is a very good volleyer when he does come to net. As someone with a smaller frame than some of his peers, he relies on a solid return game to be successful, and utilizes a good inside-out forehand to dictate play during his matches.
“One thing I am really trying to improve on is my serve,” he said. “Not being as tall as other players, I don’t have as big of a serve, so I’ve been working on strengthening that by using my legs more, moving my toss more out in front, and just trying to generate as much power and kick as I possibly can.”
His drive to continually get better was on display during the lockdown period of the pandemic last year, and has really helped Badlani to elevate his game. With matches and tournaments cancelled, Badlani focused on his fitness and conditioning so he would be ready to go once tournament play resumed.
“I made sure to do fitness very often and I think I was actually able to improve my game during lockdown,” he said. “I made a huge addition to my game, which was improving my fitness, and used that time off to improve my game in other ways as well.”
With junior tennis fully immersed in tournament action once again, Badlani has relished the opportunity to put what he has learned and improved on in his practices and training to the test in matches.
“It feels great to be playing tournaments on a consistent basis again. We trained throughout last year just to be able to come back and play in and try to do well at these big events,” said Badlani. “It’s just great to be able to have that routine back again. Before the pandemic, I was pretty much playing a tournament every weekend. So it definitely feels good to be back.”
Badlani is ranked eighth in New York by TennisRecruiting.Net, and should see that ranking continue to increase as he goes through the summer. One of his top goals is to post solid results at the annual USTA Junior Clay Court Championships, and use that as a springboard towards more success as we move from the summer to the fall.
“I put a lot work in during these last few months, and I wasn’t able to play any Nationals. We do all the work so we can go out and play well at the big tournaments,” he said. “And I want to feel like I’ve gotten better, and show that the hard work is paying off.”
His hard-work and coachable attitude are just two of the many reasons why his coaches and instructors see only big things to come in Badlani’s future. Joao Pinho, who runs the high performance programs at the National Tennis Center, has seen that work up-close and in person, and is excited for what lies ahead.
“Aryan is a very coachable player who has a great feel and willingness to improve. He has made great strides in his game in the recent past and has been working extremely hard to improve in all aspects,” said Pinho.
“Aryan has a bright future ahead of him and we, at the National Tennis Center, are happy to be part of his journey!”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at email@example.com