Deciding what sport you want to play as a kid in Canada can be a hard decision, and tennis probably isn't at the top of your list. Recent success of top Canadian tennis pros has definitely helped awareness of the sport, but it's still really yet to take off to the next level. Ratan Gill on the other hand started hitting the ball at around 8 years old. Growing up in a tennis family, his parents were active in getting him into it.
"My dad used to take my sisters, mom and I out to my elementary school courts just to play for fun. It was when I was living in Kamloops that I really started tennis more seriously at around 11 years old."
His older cousin Rav, who played for the Denver Pioneers, was also starting to compete in tournaments. This inspired Ratan to get more serious about it. In fact, his first time ever being coached was a semi-private lesson with Rav. From this point forward, he started entering local tournaments, and his game took off.
Like most juniors in BC, Ratan competed in the usual line up of competitions around the province. He capped off his last year in juniors becoming #2 doubles player in Canada and #1 singles player in BC in the 18s division. These results made Ratan the top recruit out of BC for any NCAA Division 1 US Universities looking at players to bring onto their team. To no surprise, the University of Portland snagged him up, so Ratan headed down to Oregon for 4 years of top tier college tennis.
Competing in the West Coast Conference (WCC), The University of Portland squares off against some of the top tennis programs in the country. Division 1 men's tennis start the team component of their seasons in January, and play through the spring until they reach their more important conference matches that begin in March. Once conference play is completed, the top teams compete at the Conference Championships. One of Ratan's coolest experiences was that first round match of the Conference Tournament in each of his four years.
"It's a first round knockout tournament, so everyone on the team is super amped to win that first match. When you turn an individual sport into something like college tennis, each guy on the team has to do his job in order for the team to advance. In the first conference match, your season is on the line, so the support of your teammates and fellow students is everything. Just to be on the team in an environment like that is pretty awesome."
In Ratan's final year at Portland, his team ended the season nationally ranked. Anyone who knows NCAA Div 1 tennis knows, that if you're a ranked team, you're a cut above the rest. It was the first time in the Portland tennis program history that this was achieved.
Ratan gave the team solid leadership over his four years there. In his junior year, he played in the team’s number one slot and in his senior year he battled through injuries to still play at the top of the lineup. On his summer breaks, he would routinely keep his game in top form by competing in various men's tournaments in BC and south of the border in Washington. I asked Ratan what his best win was ever, and at the time it was a top pro.
"One player was ranked around 260 in the world when I beat him. It was the summer after my freshman year."
Competing with some of the top players on the ATP tour goes to show how talented Ratan is. He decided to stay the course and finish his science degree at Portland before heading back to BC for the next chapter.
Since moving back home, Ratan has spent some time giving back and is helping young kids develop their tennis games. He is currently the Assistant Tennis Pro at Steve Nash Sports Club in Richmond, and works with kids of all ages and varying levels. Having personally played with Ratan and coached alongside him, he is absolutely amazing with his students. He brings a very unique perspective to the game, and has very well rounded knowledge to help kids grow - from those just picking up a racquet for the first time, to young up-and-coming juniors who are looking to follow in his footsteps.
When it comes to hardware, Ratan uses some of the best gear in the game. He was using Wilson racquets but recently made the switch to Babolat.
"They have more pop than Wilson racquets. The ball flies a little easier but you still have the same control as a Wilson racquet would. More power means easier on the arm for me too."
Babolot puts out a really solid line of racquets, so I asked Ratan why he goes with the AeroPro Drive over the classic Pure Drive.
"The Pure drive was too much. The AeroPro Drive gives me the extra pace and the spin that I need when I play the way I want. For my game style, the Pure drive was almost like a trampoline, so I was looking for a racquet with more control.
When it comes to stringing up, Ratan uses Solinco Tour Bite. He likes this string because it feels soft on the arm and has good pop, grabbing the ball a lot more than Babolat RPM Blast. Ratan enjoys the extra spin Solinco gives on his ball.
To see Ratan's entire gear line up when he hits the court, check him out on Dooers.
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