On the bounce

WHILE many 12-year-olds may not have a clear idea of their future careers, Imran Daniel Abdul Hazli knows he wants to become a world tennis champion. As the son of former national tennis player Abdul Hazli Zainuddin, Imran has the upper hand in pursuing the sport, in terms of influence and guidance.

“Tennis means a lot to me. It is an interesting sport, and I find it challenging. My father talks about tennis all the time - in the car, during dinner, and on the court. He even analyses videos and reads a lot of books. He educates me on the path all professionals go through such as the Olympics and Grand Slams,” said Imran.

Speaking on competitions, Imran expresses his desire to play at the world stage with his father, and mixed doubles at the Grand Slam with his sister.

“The three most important aspects when it comes to tennis is mental strength, perseverance, and attitude on and off the court. I get frustrated when I lose a match, but I feel that I learn more from losing than winning. I’d then strive to put in more effort to improve myself and look forward to the next tournament,” he shared.

Imran trains mainly on court, practising his serves, on-court drills and in-match plays. On Saturdays, he runs six kilometres and coaches kids to see different angles of playing tennis. He also trains off-court with mental visualisation of matches and video analysis.

Diet-wise, he doesn’t like spicy food and carbonated drinks, but he reserves his love for chocolates. For recovery and muscle-building, Imran takes protein powders after his training, as well as a regular intake of multivitamins and vitamin C.

“I do feel exhausted sometimes, especially on school days but I will push myself as my father doesn’t tolerate low-intensity training. It is definitely tough, but it doesn’t get easier to be the best at what you do,” he expressed.

How do you juggle between school, training, and competitions?

I normally prepare for school at the very last minute due to hectic schedules. I get less sleep three weeks before examinations - sometimes only three hours a day. It is tiring, but that is the sacrifice I have to make in order to balance both training and school. Sometimes training hours are cut to the minimum a day.

What are you doing at the time of this interview?

We are at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida – one of the best junior tournaments in the world. All the previous champions of this tournament were and are the Grand Slams and top 10 players in the world. This tournament is mainly for exposure as I am a year early for it.

How did it feel to win the 2015 World Junior Tennis Masters, and how has the fame of being the first Malaysian world tennis champ affected you?

It felt good, but to me it was just a part of the journey to become a world champion. Fame gives me pressure and it isn’t toning down, but it is up to how I handle it.

What is your advice for those who want to play tennis professionally?

Tennis is a fun sport and it teaches you about life. You can learn a lot about mental strength and discipline. Find the right coach and the right place to train. You need to dedicate yourself, make sacrifices, and be patient as it is a long process.

TRIVIA

Favourite subject in school: Mathematics.

Other hobbies: Playing Xbox, football, basketball, golf, and swimming.

Favourite tennis player: Roger Federer.

Countries he competed in: Thailand, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, US, and France.

Dislikes: Smell of coffee, cheaters, and bullies.