Ajeet Bhardwaj: blazing a trail in Indian seniors tennis circuit despite late start

Ajeet Bhardwaj started competing in the international tennis circuit when he was 55 and is thrilled to own the milestone of a maximum number of wins by an Indian tennis player in the senior circuit.

At 63, he is athletic and light on his feet. He is an optometrist by profession for more than 40 years, a renowned guide on eye care, but there is no better definition of an optimist.

“I learnt tennis at the age of 40 at the Vasant Vihar Club to control excessive weight. I started playing the international events in 2013. Others had started by 2008. So, I am proud to have 114 wins despite having such a late startโ€™โ€™, said Bhardwaj, as he talked about his sports and life journey.

After he graduated from the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), Bhardwaj worked in Nigeria for eight years. In Lagos, when he was travelling to board a flight for home, his car was waylaid and looted. Two of his friends, an engineer and an architect, died in the firing, and he survived with a bullet shattering his right lung and getting stuck in the rib cage.

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“One taxi driver took me to a hospital, and it was a veterinary hospital. I was transported in a veterinary ambulance to a hospital. I was advised to go to London for suitable medical care. But, I returned to India. It took me many months to find an expert doctor in Bihar to take out the bullet. He opened my chest and cut the ribs without anaesthesia, as I had only one lungโ€™โ€™, Bhardwaj recalled.

He did well as an optometrist, after a simple start in a basement. He flourished with many branches around the country. One of his patients commented about his enormous gain of weight which drove him to find a sport.

“I play all levels of tournaments. The most difficult thing is to get coaching. Most of the coaches donโ€™t guide me as they are my competitorsโ€™โ€™, he says with a smile.

He plays tennis for four hours and does physical fitness and yoga for two hours, every day. He has five branches of eye care centre, managed by his son Rahul.

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He is proud to have won 11 ITF singles titles, the second-best behind Nagaraj Revanasiddaiah (17), in the country.

“I have more than 300 trophies. Two rooms at home are dedicated for the trophiesโ€™โ€™, he reveals.

One of the leading optometrists in the country, he gives lectures in various universities and has written a book on telemedicine.

“Since I was busy playing, I had started online consultation many years agoโ€™โ€™, he said.

He was ranked a career-best 99 in 2014. He is eagerly looking forward to getting into the over-65 circuit and becoming a top-50 player in the world.

The brave always make it an enjoyable experience irrespective of what life throws at them!

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