In this Tennis Spotlight I interviewed Raheel Manji. Raheel had a decorated career as a junior paying for the Canada Junior Davis Cup team. Following his junior career, he played college tennis at Indiana University where he helped his team be consistently ranked. Raheel was ranked as high as 31 in the country in doubles as well. After finishing collegiate tennis, he battled injuries on the pro tour and decided to be the Volunteer Assistant Coach at Oklahoma University. While there he saw tennis through another lens and decided it was time to gro pro again following the 2018-2019 season. Raheel won 3 $15k Futures events in 2019 and looks to win many more this year. Click Here to see his ATP Profile. Click Here to see his tennis accomplishments from Indiana University. Here is our interview:
1. When did you first get into tennis?
Raheel Manji: “My dad grew up playing hockey and tennis. I got introduced to the sport when I was 4 or 5 and rose to the top of the country quickly. As soon as I started I had success so it was something where I felt like I should go all in.”
2. What was it like playing for the Canada junior Davis Cup team?
Raheel Manji: “It meant a lot to represent my country that early on. I had to accomplish many milestones to secure my spot on the team. I won the national championship to secure my spot. There are only 3 team members. It was important because we were hosting it in Montreal. I was able to practice my leadership skills during Davis Cup. We won our matches and had a nail biter against the U.S, where I played Francis Tiafoe where I lost in the 3rd set. It was an experience I will never forget.”
3. What was it like leading your team? Did it come easy for you?
Raheel Manji: “It felt natural because I was in leadership positions before. There was a learning curve in my junior tennis career. I never hesitated when my time came junior year of college to step up. I believe that every year you are in a position to lead, and you learn so much about how to be a better leader the next year. You do the best you can, and you’ll always be criticized in that position- but if you know what you’re doing is right then you will reap the rewards from that.”
4. What kind of positive impact did your coaches at IU have on your game?
Raheel Manji: “They had so much belief in me. When we got a new coach I questioned if I was going to be in the lineup, Coach Wurtzman came in right away and put me at position 3. This was something that propelled me to have confidence in myself to rise to the situation. When he put me ahead of where I thought I was, it gave me so much confidence. I will forever be grateful for that. I learned that competitiveness takes over, and no matter what situation you are in you will pull through.”
5. Did their impact on you influence your decision to coach at Oklahoma?
Raheel Manji: “I looked up to Coach Wurtzman a lot. He was a role model for me. I always had a desire to get involved in coaching at some point, but he inspired me to get into college coaching.”
6. Did coaching at the University of Oklahoma spark your desire to go pro again?
Raheel Manji: “It gave me some perspective when you are constantly in the game and you stop all of a sudden you see things a lot clearer. I was getting a lot smarter through coaching, it didn’t matter how rusty I was, I was still able to play at a high level. I didn’t decide to go pro again until my drive home from Oklahoma after the school year. Friends and family pushed me to further tap into my potential.
7. What has been your toughest challenge yet on tour?
Raheel Manji: “My toughest challenge has been my fitness. With injuries, it has been tough to stay on court during long matches. I have started to find ways to play smart with my injuries.”
8. What are your career goals for 2020?
Raheel Manji: “I see myself leaning towards doubles and it has been something where it is less taxing on my body. With that priority, it is a whole new arena. I won 3 titles without having a clue on how to navigate around the pro circuit. I had different partners and no plan. My goal for 2020 is to make sure that I am managing the business of the pro tour correctly and have a plan”.
9. What is one piece of advice that you have to give young players?
Raheel Manji: “If you want to play this sport at the highest level you can, you have to be 100% committed to it first. This means you have to really ask yourself if this is what you want to do. Once you decide that, you have to be all in and find a way to fall in love with the process of reaching your highest goals. To have a mission like focus.
I would also say to recruits going into college to never take a lesser academic school for their tennis (unless they are all into going professional) but instead, use their tennis to help them get into the best academic school possible.”
Raheel Manji is truly a lifelong supporter of the sport. If you happen to talk tennis with him you will truly recognize his passion for tennis. I recommend you follow along his journey as he climbs the ATP ranks in 2020.
Thanks for reading!