Pursuit of Happiness

For the love of the game

Sulekha founder Satya Prabhakar goes wherever tennis takes him

Hailing from the small town of Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, a young Satya Prabhakar often watched his father play tennis and go on to become a district champion, while balancing his job as a college professor. Prabhakar says, “I was fortunate that he had such a strong interest in the game and encouraged me to play as well.” While he only played for a lark in school and college, it was when he was studying and working in the USA that he started playing the game actively.

Starting off with playing for city leagues with his then-employer, Honeywell, he has now been a regular player for around 20 years, managing to play at least twice or thrice a week. It was here that he learnt the important lesson of being watchful of one's opponent's weakness. When he was 1-5 down in the first set in the company league, a colleague came up to him and told him to play to his opponent’s weak backhand. Prabhakar says, “As soon as I figured it out, I realised that I was able to play the game better and eventually won the games in straight sets – 7-5, 6-0.”

His own passion for the sport aside, he has also ensured that his daughters play the game. He says, “I have insisted that my daughters learn two things – writing software and playing tennis.” He has his reasons for the same too, “This is a sport that you can play all your life, is played all over the world and doesn’t need a team. So, why not? It only helps bring people closer.” His shared love of the game with his daughters took him on trips to the US Open in 2006, the Wimbledon in 2007 and even the more recent ITPL in 2014.

He says, “I am usually a very frugal person, but even I had to give in when I had the chance to watch the US Open or the ITPL with my daughters, much to my wife’s chagrin.” Clearly, his love for the sport is not just restricted to his time on court, but also off it — as a viewer. Being a massive Roger Federer fan, much like the rest of the world, he claims to have a reasonable argument about why he is not just the greatest player in the world, but also a great athlete. He jokes, “After watching him play live, I came home and told my wife, 'I am in love with another man.'”

For him, the love for the sport and the lessons he learns from it are not just restricted to the court. He says, “I have realised that the difference between professional and amateur tennis is very important. While professional tennis is all about hitting winning shots, amateur tennis is about minimising errors. Entrepreneurship, too, is about minimising errors 80% of the time. This is the best way to get better at the job and eventually make your winning shots.”