"You are from Nepal? And you coach tennis at the University of Illinois? Are there tennis courts in Nepal? Do a lot of people play tennis there? How did you pick up the game?"
I get these questions often and they serve to remind me of my roots. And that motivates me to help the game of tennis grow in Nepal.
I am passionate about tennis. My brother (Raj) showed me the benefits and rewards of this game at a young age. Here are his top 10 reasons to get excited about tennis and I hope they will help you fall in love with the game, just like I did.
#1 Tennis is a lifetime sport
You can learn before you go to school and play long after you retire. You can start out as young as three and play to 80 or longer.
#2 Tennis gives you a great workout
You stretch, you jump, you swing, you run-therefore you use most of your muscles. You get great aerobic and anaerobic workouts.
#3 Tennis players are of all sizes
Unlike basketball and American football, you don't have to be big or tall to play tennis. Some world-class players are actually quite small. Michael Chang is only 5'9" and he won the French Open.
#4 Tennis can be played on various surfaces
You can play on clay, grass, carpet, hard-court and synthetic grass. In India, they even play on cow dung courts.
#5 Tennis can be played indoors and outdoors
You can play indoors or outdoors, all yearlong. In countries with cold winters, they have indoor facilities and outdoor courts for the summer months.
#6 Tennis stars are international
Sania Mirza is already a household name in her country. That will tremendously boost tennis's popularity in India. Germany's Boris Becker and Steffi Graf are known worldwide for their on-court accomplishments. Bjorn Borg inspired Sweden's tennis industry. In the US it was Connors, McEnroe, Sampras, Everett and Navratilova. And all the boys in Kathmandu know of Andre Agassi.
#7 Tennis is fun to play and watch
It is fun to hit balls but competing with your friend, partner or opponent makes it even better. You meet wonderful people as you socialise. It's also enjoyable to watch professionals play on tv or live. There are great tournaments to watch, especially the grand slams.
#8 Tennis is less time consuming and produces fewer injuries
Unlike in golf, you don't need multiple hours to play a match. If you play tennis even half an hour a couple of times a week you get a great workout. Also, it results in few injuries. US statistics shows that basketball is the number one sport for injuries. But can you believe that tennis produces 50 percent fewer injuries than golf?
#9 Tennis can be played everywhere and is the world's number two sport
Tennis courts are available worldwide in hotels, clubs, parks, schools and universities. Tennis is second in popularity only to soccer because it is more challenging to learn the hand-eye coordination required by the game. Its low cost is definitely a factor too.
#10 Tennis develops the mind and teaches you life skills
Tennis' exercise is a combination of running and playing chess. While your body is getting a workout, your mind is also challenged. You constantly need to strategise while you play, such as when to, where to, why to, how to, beat your opponent.