(The Bridge is now on WhatsApp. Subscribe to stay connected to the Indian Sporting Ecosystem.
Click here & hit the SEND button.)
Christian Bosse is the Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Netherlands Olympics team. After graduating in Sports Science from Cologne, Christian was a key member of the High Performance Tennis Center in Bangalore from 2004-06. This is where his contact with Prajnesh began back then to where it is today.
After the surge to the top-105 rank last year, Prajnesh has called out his SOS to Christian as the pivotal moment of his career. We had an opportunity to discuss with Christian about his journey into the sport and his association with Prajnesh Gunneswaran in detail.
This is the 4th article of the 9-part series on Prajnesh Gunneswaran.
The article was first published on Indian Tennis Daily.
After graduating in Sports Science from Cologne, you started off as a Fitness Trainer at the High Performance Tennis Center in Bangalore, India. How and what triggered this move to India?
One of my former professors from Spain – his friend was working in Bangalore at the High Performance Tennis Center and they were looking for a replacement. My contact was forwarded and that is how the opportunity came about.
I started studying Sports Science with the intention of becoming a coach myself. I used to be a competitive player. Later, I got certified as a Tennis coach. So the opportunity of being a strength and conditioning coach in a tennis academy combined both what I studied as well as my passion for Tennis.
Can you share more detail on your journey into Tennis?
It started off as a 10-year old when I got interested in Tennis. Few months later, Boris Becker won the Wimbledon. I got hooked onto it from then on and I was a big Boris Becker fan throughout his entire career. I had played Tennis at the national level in Germany.
During my studies at the University, one of the specializations that I chose was Tennis (amongst several sport options). During that specialization, I pursued the level-2 certification.
Your initial impressions of working with Prajnesh back in Bangalore (2004-06).
I could remember Prajnesh from Day I as he was very visible in the gym and on the courts very early. He was injured very often. He was skinny and fragile physically.
He was a good tennis player and competitor which is what he had ever since.
Any other players and administrators from that phase in Bangalore that you have worked with?
Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan was there. National level players like Kaushik Raju, Karthik Raju, Varun Gunaseelan and others – They went onto pursue college tennis after that.
In several interviews, Prajnesh has specifically called out your involvement towards the revival in his injury ridden career. Can you share more detail on how the SOS call came about and how you began working with him?
I left India in 2006 to work for the Catalan Tennis Federation. Prajnesh was based at the same time in a Tennis academy in Spain. So I still had contact with him. In 2008, I moved to England and we lost contact then.
Around 2013/14, he called up to say that he tried lot of things but nothing has really worked. So he reached out to see if I could help him out. He was injured very often and couldn’t play multiple matches in a row.
It was a bit challenging as most of our contact was over phone or video conferencing, so I could not see him in person. However, through questionnaire and detailed talk, I could figure out the problem and device a training plan – which included his schedule of tourneys as well. I advised him to take out specific periods of time out of about 2-3 weeks to focus on his physical development. It has worked out well so far.
Additionally, depending on where we were in the season, the focus shifted a little bit from more endurance, stamina to more strength building, stamina, etc,.
What was your initial diagnosis of Prajnesh’s condition?
As I said, we had spoken multiple times over phone calls and I could figure out that the injuries he had in 2013/14 were because his body was not prepared for the load, especially multiple matches in a week. There were certain regions which troubled him the most. His shoulder was something that gave him trouble. As also his lower back, the hip and the knee.
The next step was to figure out what could be the cause, devise the plan of attack and have it executed.
Have you come across players with similar condition as Prajnesh, before that?
Very often. Tennis is very injury prone. Shoulder is the dominant one and so one has to prepare it. The hip on the opposite side i.e., left shoulder and right hip for a leftie like Prajnesh. Knee can be both sides. The lower back. These are the areas where the most common issues for Tennis players come about.
If a young player or Prajnesh was to restart his tennis journey, what would you advice him/her in terms of training regimen and everything else to avoid that state?
Federer’s coach Ljubicic put it this way – if he would do it all over again, he would get a strength and conditioning coach for Federer as soon as possible. So as a junior player, he would focus much more on his physical development. Emphasis here is development – so it is an ongoing process, not just for a week or two.
The secret lies in that you have a structured plan that you can develop while you are not playing tournaments and you could maintain while playing tournaments. The very common practice is that you develop something when you are not playing tournaments but then as soon as the tourneys start, the players do not train anymore. This means that you are basically going back to zero when you are starting your next development phase.
So this is what we are doing with Prajnesh now. We have dedicated periods where we focus on developing certain physical qualities and when he plays tourneys, it is the maintenance period where he does not lose much or loses as little as possible.
Thoughts on Prajnesh’s emergence to the top of the Indian ladder
Back in the day in 2004/06, there were a few players who were more talented than Prajnesh and also gifted more physically. However, Prajnesh had the determination to stick to doing the things he should be doing while others may not have done that.
Consistency and determination have led him to the success that he has now.
Current involvement with other Indian players
One of my former players – Manu Bajpai is a traveling tennis coach and the strength and conditioning coach for Jeevan. He consults me and I share my advice once in a while.
Current projects that you are involved in.
My main occupation is working with the Olympic Committee of Netherlands where I prepare the Dutch players for the Olympic Games. I am in my 3rd Olympic cycle now and so I had prepared athletes for the London and the Rio games. So my main focus is the Tokyo games now.
In addition to that, I have started my own project where I am trying to distribute and share my knowledge to players who like to avail it. You can find me through my website (www.christianbosse.com). It features a knowledge base section which provides answers to most of the readers questions.
Overall world-wide Junior players have tendency to focus too much on tournament play and not focus much attention on development which is either physical, tactical or technical tennis development.
Specific to Indian players – physically they are not the most gifted. Most of them don’t focus much on physical development. It is evident when they compete on the world stage – physically they are not there on where they could be.