At precisely 6 am on an overcast December morning, GVK Group founder and CMD GV Krishna Reddy briskly makes his way to the tennis court that forms a part of his sprawling residence in Hyderabad’s upmarket Banjara Hills area. “I am 78 and fit as a fiddle,” says Reddy, wearing a white T-shirt that bears the GVK logo and matching shorts. This is his daily routine — Reddy starts his day at 5 am. “I do an hour of yoga before a round of tennis.” Tennis is a part of Reddy’s life and it has been this way ever since his college days.
“I played a lot of volleyball as well. Tennis took a bit of a break on account of work. But starting from 1975, I have been playing the game every morning,” he says. Each game — Reddy plays doubles — lasts for 90 minutes. “I am quite fussy about these games and do not miss them even if I have a flight to catch at 8.30 or 9 am,” he adds. Reddy’s regime is deceptively simple: the game involves two sets. And he has won both this morning.
“Obviously, I am quite competitive. I take these games very seriously. I do not like to lose in general, and tennis is no exception,” he says, bluntly. Reddy has a neat little tennis court at home, so he does not have to haggle for time at the local club house. “I used to find it difficult booking a spot at the local club house. That’s when I realised setting up a court at home made much more sense,” he says.
The surface is custom-laid to ensure that it is less stressful for his knees. Reddy’s doubles partner is Rama Bhupathy, who is 58 and has been playing with him for over 30 years now. Apart from Bhupathy, his group comprises 10 people, who are mostly senior citizens. “I’ve been friends with them over many years. They are mostly IAS officers and fellow businessmen,” he says. None of that camaraderie comes in the way of tough play on court, though. “It is a place where all of us are equal and our focus is only on tennis.”
Reddy says tennis is how he dissipates every form of stress. “I am quite an optimist but the pressures of modern-day business cannot be ignored. It is critical to find an outlet for that and, for me, it is tennis,” he maintains. “I forget the world on court.”
Indeed, for Reddy, tennis is a serious detour from work. “It helps me get to a better frame of mind,” he says, adding that it is imperative for everyone to have a serious interest outside work. “Sport is a good option. There is a happiness quotient that comes with sport and it helps in increasing overall efficiency at work. It makes a difference by keeping one’s mind active and removing signs of sluggishness and fatigue from the body,” he explains.
With age, Reddy has made some slight modifications to his game. Today, Reddy wears shoes with more cushioning to make sure his knees are in good shape and uses a head racket designed to absorb more shocks. Reddy prefers being the serve and volley player and this is not without reason. “You need a lot of power to play from the baseline,” he says. The only time he does not play is when he is out of town. “It is not easy to find people to play with and there is very little time, too,” he explains.
When he is not playing tennis, Reddy watches the game on television, and even in the middle of overseas work trips, he has managed to catch big matches in the stadium. Reddy’s favourite is Roger Federer and he has watched him a few times at Wimbledon and the US Open.
The joy of playing the game has been so tremendous for the man that he decided to set up and promote the GVK Tennis Academy. “We try to spot young talent and nurture them,” he says.
According to Reddy, there are very few quality players from India in spite of the country’s huge population. “There are many issues that we have to deal with, such as very little financial support for budding players, a paucity of world-class coaches and the unavailability of proper infrastructure for the game.” To date, the academy has sponsored sports stars such as Sania Mirza and many promising teenagers. “Sania’s talent was spotted when she was very young and GVK sponsored her until she became an international player. This is my way of promoting the game among the younger generation in a small way,” he says.
In addition to this, Reddy has been sponsoring the All India Seniors Tennis Association for the past two decades. “This is for retired veterans who need an avocation and exercise,” he adds. For Reddy, tennis is an integral part of life. He tosses a somewhat philosophical line our way when asked how the game has made a difference to his professional life. “Winning or losing is a part of life. One needs the willpower to withstand tough times and be persevering, and that is what tennis has taught me,” he sums up.