Tennis is one of those popular and luxury sports that not everyone can afford to make it as a career. While it is a far-fetched dream for a few, for 20-year-old Sheik Jafreen, it is a dream driven by passion.

Groundstroke, half-volley and back spinning the ball in the court, this 20-year-old plays with ease and precision. Unlike other tennis players, this “specially gifted” youngster cannot hear the sound of the ball hitting the racket from the opponent, which made her even tougher to stay ahead in the game.

Born with hearing-impairment, Jafreen’s condition did not overrule her life when she first expressed her interest for the sport at the age of seven. By winning the bronze in 2017 Samsun Deaflympics, she made the heads turn. However, there is much struggle and toil behind her achievement while scaling the ladder from 36th to 12th rank in women’s rankings of International Tennis Federation (ITF).

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Her father Zakeer Ahmed, an advocate by profession from Kurnool in the neighbouring State of Andhra Pradesh, had to give up his job only to become a complete guide to her. “With limited sports infrastructure and shortage of professional tennis coaches in India, Jafreen has always had the thirst to compete with the best. I had to sell off our ancestral land to train my daughter at Shanghai in China for four months, which had cost me around Rs 9 lakh. The training in China is what I think that defined her career,” Zakeer proudly says.

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Mentoring her and being a personal guide all through her practice sessions and international tourneys, Zakeer is now finding it difficult as he continued to face stiff resistance from his family and friends. “Every tourney would cost us around Rs 2 lakh for travel expenses and diet; as most of the tourneys are usually held in European countries, the expenses spiral up,” he says.

Having played 16 international tournaments, Jafreen is determined to bring gold medal in Deaflympics 2021, only if sponsors come forward liberally to help her way through. Jafreen, who is currently being trained at Zeeshan Ali Tennis Academy in Bengaluru, is preparing for World Deaf Tennis Championship 2018 which is going to be held in September, at Antalya in Turkey.

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A student of St Ann’s College for Women, Mehdipatnam, Jafreen has recently received Sakshi Excellence Award. #KhabarLive