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The Moonballer by Nirupama Vaidyanathan

Nirupama Vaidyanathan, India’s first woman tennis player, takes us through the highs and lows of her life in ‘The Moonballer’. The book manages to engage as well as inspire.

Nirupama Vaidyanathan, India’s first woman tennis player, takes us through the highs and lows of her life in ‘The Moonballer’. The book manages to engage as well as inspire.

Review by Priyanka Roy Banerjee 

Nirupama Vaidyanathan is India’s first professional female tennis player and the first Indian woman ever to win a round at a Grand Slam. ‘The Moonballer’ is her autobiography. The book chronicles the difficult journey of a woman who dared to live her dream.

Not all autobiographies have the ability to capture and hold the reader’s attention till the end. This one is exceptionally good. Nirupama recollects her childhood in Coimbatore – little snippets that fill us in with her family background. Nirupama’s father was a Ranji player, although a lawyer by profession. This was a time when boys played sport, and girls learnt music and dance. Nirupama’s father decided to teach her brother tennis, but as it turned out, Niru was more keen to learn and picked up fast. From there on, it was a struggle for the middle-class father and daughter in the big bad world of Indian tennis.

The book is anything but dry; it is an engaging story of Nirupama’s struggle professionally as well as emotionally. There is a lot to learn from her experiences. The part about her stay in Luxembourg in a hostile environment with very little money makes us appreciate how much easier we have it now.

Deprived of proper funding from the AITA, Nirupama could not afford a personal coach throughout her career. She didn’t have women players to look up to in India, but that didn’t deter her from playing pro.  Nirupama expresses her disappointment with the authorities in India and the lack of encouragement for women players. She recounts how she stood up against malpractice, oppression and wrong decisions imposed on her by the authorities. Hers is a story of courage and determination against all odds.

Nirupama made a comeback at the age of 33 at the 2010 Commonwealth and Asian Games to become the only mother to play tennis for India. However, injuries and motherhood made her quit professional tennis. The book ends by describing her life in the U.S. where she now runs her own tennis academy.

Nirupama’s life is inspiring not just for aspiring sportspersons, but for anyone trying to follow their dreams. Spiced with anecdotes and humour, ‘The Moonballer’ is an interesting read that entertains while it motivates.

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Publisher: Nirupama Sanjeev

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