“Goal is to play Grand Slam Qualifiers this year” – Sahaja Yamalapalli dreams of bigger things after win over top seed at L&T Mumbai Open WTA 125K

“Goal is to play Grand Slam Qualifiers this year” – Sahaja Yamalapalli dreams of bigger things after win over top seed at L&T Mumbai Open WTA 125K

Mumbai, February 6, 2024: India’s Sahaja Yamalapalli had never played a WTA $125K event or a player ranked inside the top 100 in the world prior to Monday. But the 23-year-old displayed power-packed groundstrokes and nerves of steel to pull off an upset win over top seed Kayla Day in the first round of the L&T Mumbai Open WTA 125K Series Tennis Championships, being organized by the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA) and the Cricket Club of India (CCI), on Monday evening.

After the big win, Yamalapalli was thankful to tournament organizers for the wild card. “As you all know, I'm a wild-carder here in the tournament. I would like to thank MSLTA and Sunder (Iyer) Sir for giving me this opportunity to play on this big stage. To just be around these players, you start believing that you belong here. You see them, you play with them and you get that confidence and then you go on to the match like thinking, OK, you can do this. I was telling myself I can do this even though she's the first seed. She's top 100. I've never played a top 100 player before. It's my first match playing a top 100 and I just wanted to give everything out there. In the end, I got a couple of match points and I was like shaking, like, Oh my God. Like I'm winning this. And I'm really glad that I was able to pull it off.”

“This is a big win for me, especially at this point of my career, it's very motivating. It's really pushing me to do better, push harder and more practices and really go out there and get more wins in, on the big stage. So I'm really happy to get this.”

Despite this being her first match against a top 100 player, Yamalapalli was not surprised at her level, having gained confidence to know that she can compete with players at the elite level.

“I mean, not really (surprised) because I know I can produce this type of tennis. It's all mental. I was just preparing myself that I can do this because I was in the same position before against players in the top 200. And then I got this close and did not come on the winning side. At that time, I was a little bit less confident. But this time, all those experiences helped me for this match to go into that thinking like I can do this, I can beat anyone here. I was confident and just going for it.”

Having come through the American collegiate circuit and now training with PBI, Yamalapalli believes her fitness and physical strength have been some of the biggest improvements in her game.

“For sure, it's fitness and physical strength. I've built a lot over the years and then my forehand has been the biggest strength in my game and the serve. Lately I've been working a lot on my serve because I have big groundstrokes. But my serve was very decent. So I was working on that for the past couple of weeks and today I was able to serve better than my last matches.”

Speaking about her goals for the season, Yamalapalli said her target is to play in the qualifying draws for the Grand Slams this year.

“I don't want to say a ranking like a number. Of course, I want to build on this, keep working on my game. I think there's still a lot more to learn and a lot more things to improve. There's always things to improve. So I just want to take this match, take the confidence and motivation and keep going. And you know I want to at the end of the year play the qualifying at the Grand slams. I'm going to keep working hard and keep going towards it.”