GopherSports: Since leaving Minnesota you have traveled all over the world playing on the ATP Tour. Do you know how many stamps are in your passport?
Harsh Mankad: I carry an Indian passport which is about 75 pages. I have visa stamps and also the stamps you are talking about. I've probably been to over 50 countries and maybe my passport will make it to a museum some day!
GS: Where are a few of your favorite places to visit?
HM: I really enjoy Europe in the summer for how well the tournaments are organized, the tennis culture, entertainment and activities around the events, and of course the beautiful people. London, Bastad in southern Sweden, and Poznan in Poland have been my favorites so far. I also love California for the weather and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.
GS: Can you share one travel nightmare story with us? Traveling the world is not always as glamorous as people think, right?
HM: The travel to Chikmagalur in rural India for an ATP event was very challenging. My wife was with me on that trip. We had a six hour bus ride in hot weather and bumpy roads from Bangalore airport. There were no hotel rooms open so they sent us an hour and a half away to a tea estate house in the jungle on top of a mountain. On the way back to Bangalore we took a taxi. The taxi stopped on the highway in the middle of nowhere and two guys approached us on a bike. Fortunately they just spoke a bit and exchanged cell phones and we were on our way. But I was definitely very nervous! That was one of the last trips my wife made with me for a tennis tournament.
GS: You have had quite a few doubles partners this year? How long does it take to become familiar with a new partner?
HM: Yeah it's been an interesting journey. I've played with a few different guys and it takes understanding their games and their personalities to be successful. The key is to focus on yourself and be supportive of your partner.
GS: You qualified for the main draw in doubles at Wimbledon this year. What was that experience like for you?
HM: It was great to come through a very tough qualifying draw and make it to Wimbledon. It's a dream come true and it completely surpassed all my expectations and blew me away!
GS: How often do you train and what kind of fitness exercises do you do?
HM: I've been playing a lot of tournaments recently. Apart from the tennis, I do strength training twice a week, core work twice a week, stretching every day, and some swimming as recovery if I have access to a pool.
GS: Your family has a strong history in both cricket and tennis. Did you play both growing up? What or who steered you toward tennis?
HM: Well actually I was a natural cricket player and loved the sport. But my father wasn't very keen for me to play cricket and encouraged my mother to take me to play tennis. He wanted me to play an individual sport where I control my own destiny. I have no regret, as tennis has given me so much in my life to be grateful for.
GS: How popular is tennis in India?
HM: We have a rich tennis culture and tradition in India. It's a sport that is widely followed by the public. After cricket, it is number two.
GS: You have represented India in numerous Davis Cup competitions. Can you describe what it is like to represent your country in athletic competition?
HM: It's an honor to represent your country and make it to the national team. For me it's so special because I'm the third generation of my family to represent India in sports.
GS: Harsh Mankad is a pretty sweet name and has had to generate some interesting conversations. What is your best name story?
HM: Well Harsh in Hindi means "joy" but quite the contrary in English. I used to be very shy and conscious introducing myself at the U, but then I realized people thought it was cool and never forgot my name because it was so unique. The girls didn't seem to mind!
GS: Let's talk Minnesota tennis. When you think back to your career as a Gopher is there a marquee moment that comes into your mind.
HM: I had a great career at Minnesota and the coaches instilled a lot of pride in us. The moment when I won the NCAA National Indoor Tennis Championships (in November 2001) and became the No. 1 player in the country was the highlight for me and a big moment for our program.
GS: Can you tell us about your favorite off-the-court moment at Minnesota with your teammates?
HM: Road trips with the team were a lot of fun. We traveled all over the country from Hawaii to the east coast. Playing pranks on each other at the airports, on the plane, and just about everywhere was a lot of fun and very amusing. Unfortunately I was often on the wrong side of it, but that's life!
GS: Outside of Baseline Tennis Center, where is your favorite place in the world to play tennis?
HM: It has to be Wimbledon! The setting, the pristine grass courts, and the atmosphere is superb. It's the mecca of tennis and an absolute honor to play and be part of the Championships.