Dubai: At a time when much of the focus is on some of the top stars from the tennis world, UAE-based Indian Riya Matharoo is slowly charting her own course.
The 13-year-old student of Gems Winchester School Jebel Ali has swept away each and every tournament in the under-14 girls category since last season making her dream big to take a shot at international glory in the near future.
Riya’s list of triumphs is long, but the icing on the cake was her USTA Level 6 tournament win while visiting the Saddlebrook Academies in Tampa Bay, Florida last year.
Formerly known as the Tampa Tennis Academy, the site was re-named Saddlebrook after being acquired in 1986 from Australian player and coach Harry Hopman.
A regular at former Tunisian Davis Cup player Essam Jallali’s Future Pro Tennis Academy, that one-month visit to the US and the annual Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships have pushed the teen’s focus even further as she trains her sights on making it big in the world of women’s tennis.
“I give myself another seven years to be in the top 10 on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour,” Riya told Gulf News.
“I know this sounds a bit cocky on my part, but I am willing to put in loads of hard work and make this dream come true.”
Her focus definitely stands out, more so because Riya doesn’t even possess a mobile phone.
“Martina Hingis started off early and no one believed she would be capable of winning a Grand Slam title when she was only 17,” said Riya. “I think I can go all the way and be at the top of women’s tennis just like her.”
And now, there is yet another Asian who is fuelling her dreams after Naomi Osaka’s climb to the pinnacle of tennis. “She [Osaka] is truly a huge inspiration to many, not just in Asia but all around the world,” Riya said.
“I believe I am at a critical age where it is make it or break it. It’s a turning point for me, and I want to give myself that opportunity that not many people get. I am aware I will have to work hard, really hard, and I am ready for this.”
Growing up, Riya’s idol is current world No. 5 Karolina Pliskova. And while she seeks to emulate the Czech star, Riya wants to be a more rounded and unpredictable player. “I would say I want to be a complete player. That’s the goal before me,” Riya said.
Currently in Grade 9, Riya’s next step is a longer duration during the summer of 2019. “That’s the idea as I quite liked the way they take tennis seriously,” she said. “And secondly, Saddlebrook has been home to some of the best players including Justin Henin, Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis and Caroline Wozniacki. These players have made it from there, and I believe I too can achieve my dreams.”
Name: Riya Matharoo
Date of Birth: June 5, 2005
Age: 13 years
Place of Birth: Dubai
School: Gems Winchester School, Jebel Ali
Tournaments won so far this season: USTA Level 6 in Florida, USA; DP World U14 Tennis Emirates Circuit; Swiss International School U14; Zayed Abbas Tennis Academy (ZATA) U14; Maximus Future Pro Talent Series; Al Habtoor Tennis Cup 2018; Finished first on the 2017-’18 UAE Girls U14 Rankings Circuit.