Aanik Lohani is a 24-year-old Nepali-American professional pickleball player based in Minnesota. He started playing pickleball in 8th grade and was drawn to its competitive nature.
Lohani comes from a tennis background, having played varsity tennis in high school and club tennis in college. He transitioned fully to pickleball in 2020 and turned pro in 2022.
Lohani has risen quickly in the ranks, recently taking 7th place at the Professional Pickleball Association Indoor National Championship. He works full-time as a data engineer at U.S. Bank while training and competing.
Lohani is sponsored by Joola and is working to secure more sponsorships as he establishes himself on the professional tour.
The sport of pickleball has exploded in popularity in recent years, with nearly 5 million players in the U.S. alone. This fast-paced paddle sport combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong into one fun and competitive game. And leading the charge of the pickleball revolution is 24-year-old phenom Aanik Lohani.
Lohani’s success story is one of passion, dedication, and sacrifice. With a background as a nationally ranked junior tennis player, Lohani made the difficult decision to switch sports and commit fully to pickleball. Now, just a few short years later, he’s already one of the top professional players in the world, taking 7th place at the esteemed Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Indoor National Championship.
As Lohani continues his meteoric rise, his journey illustrates how with hard work and belief in one’s talents, it’s possible to achieve great things in the growing sport of pickleball. This article will dive into Lohani’s background, path to pro, training regimen, plans for the future, and more. By spotlighting this inspiring young athlete, the incredible potential of pickleball as a professional sport comes into focus. There’s no limit to how far talent and determination can take you.
- How did Aanik Lohani get his start in pickleball?
- How did Lohani progress from amateur to pro pickleball player?
- What does a typical training week look like for this rising star?
- How did Lohani’s tennis background help shape his professional pickleball success?
- What are some keys to Lohani’s winning playstyle and strengths as a player?
- Off the court, how does Lohani handle the demands of being a rising professional player?
- What does the future look like for this promising young player?
- The Sky is the Limit for Pickleball's Rising Phenom
How did Aanik Lohani get his start in pickleball?
Although pickleball now consumes Lohani’s competitive focus, he began his athletic career on the tennis courts. Lohani started playing tennis recreationally at age 7 in his hometown of Edina, Minnesota. He quickly took to the sport and joined a USTA junior development program. Throughout middle school and high school, Lohani put in long hours training and competing, earning a top 50 national ranking in the U16 division.
According to Lohani, he was drawn to tennis by the “individual competitiveness” of the sport. He enjoyed the mental challenge of going one-on-one against an opponent on the court. This passion and competitiveness propelled him to keep improving his skills.
But when Lohani reached 8th grade, he discovered a new paddle sport gaining traction in the local community – pickleball. Immediately, the quick volleys and doubles play piqued his interest. Lohani gave the sport a try, and was hooked. He loved the fast pace of pickleball combined with the strategic placements required for success.
So began Lohani’s foray into competitive pickleball. As his skills improved, he started entering tournaments, first locally and then nationally as he reached high school. Though Lohani continued to play varsity tennis through 12th grade and club tennis in college, pickleball became his primary focus. The stage was set for his future professional career.
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How did Lohani progress from amateur to pro pickleball player?
The transition from amateur to professional in any sport requires immense dedication, persistence, and skill development. For Lohani, his experience playing national competitive junior tennis prepared him well for the path to pro.
In 2019, while still in college, Lohani began playing more high-level amateur tournaments on the APP tour, which hosts the largest competitive pickleball events in the world. Success came quickly – in his first year, Lohani won an amateur doubles title and took 2nd place in mixed doubles.
Seeing his potential, Lohani decided to pursue pickleball professionally after graduating college in 2020. He started training full-time, up to 25 hours a week on top of his job as a data engineer. Lohani also worked extensively on improving his mental game using visualization, positive self-talk, and tuning out distractions.
In 2021, Lohani captured 5th place at the prestigious APP Huntington Beach Pro tournament, earning $2,700 in winnings. This breakthrough result provided the confidence he could compete with the top players. In 2022, Lohani entered his first full slate of pro events. Highlights included two 7th place finishes at the APP Florida PRO and PPA Texas Championships.
Based on his success, Lohani achieved his dream of turning fully professional in 2022. His 7th place finish at the elite PPA Indoor Nationals to close 2022 provides evidence he’s only scratching the surface of his potential. As Lohani gains more experience against the world’s best, his skills will continue to rapidly improve.
What does a typical training week look like for this rising star?
Reaching the pinnacle of any sport requires immense physical, technical, and mental training. For Lohani, he structures his weekly training regimen carefully to develop all aspects of his game.
Most weeks, Lohani trains pickleball 20-25 hours over 5 sessions. He focuses 2-3 of these sessions on technical skills – drills to refine serve technique, volley placement, dinking consistency, and transition speed. The other 2-3 sessions involve intense matchplay against quality opponents. Lohani mixes in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles games to advance his court coverage, positioning, and decision-making.
In addition to his on-court pickleball training, Lohani works on his physical conditioning 3-4 days per week. This includes sprints, agility drills, and strength training to boost power, speed, and muscular endurance. Superior fitness allows Lohani to maintain a high level of play throughout long matches and tournaments.
Recovery and injury prevention are also key elements of Lohani’s training plan. He emphasizes proper cooldowns, stretching, massage, and adequate sleep. On off days, Lohani swims, cycles, or hikes to stay active while giving his body a break from the pounding of pickleball.
Lastly, Lohani sharpens his mental game through visualization, point simulations, and working with a sports psychologist. By training his mind as diligently as his body, he builds the confidence and mental fortitude necessary to win under pressure.
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How did Lohani’s tennis background help shape his professional pickleball success?
Many top professional pickleball players like Lohani make the transition from tennis. The technical, tactical, and psychological skills gained from tennis provide a strong foundation.
According to Lohani, playing high-level junior tennis taught him training discipline, match strategy, and mental toughness. On the technical side, his groundstrokes, court positioning, and footwork translated well to pickleball. The hand-eye coordination and racquet skills from tennis allowed Lohani to quickly develop accurate pickleball shots.
Tennis also shaped Lohani’s competitive spirit and resilience. He became accustomed to the solitary focus required in an individual sport. Lohani learned how to carefully analyze opponents, play percentages, and adjust tactics mid-match. He also developed the ability to power through inevitable losses and setbacks that occur over a season and career.
Overall, Lohani’s transition from up-and-coming junior tennis player to professional pickleball contender demonstrates the viable pathway between these two technical racquet sports. The experience of competing under pressure on big tennis stages undoubtedly boosted his pickleball learning curve.
What are some keys to Lohani’s winning playstyle and strengths as a player?
As Lohani establishes himself on the professional tour, his well-rounded and explosive playing style has become his trademark. He possesses the full arsenal of pickleball weapons – booming serves, lightning-fast reflexes at the net, and laser-like groundstrokes.
On serve, Lohani uses a smooth abbreviated motion that generates great pace and consistency. His hard serves regularly exceed 70 MPH, allowing him to score quick points or weak returns. On return, Lohani exhibits superb reflexes to block blistering serves back with depth and control.
At the non-volley zone line, Lohani’s athleticism and quick hands shine. He can end points in an instant by punching angled volleys or reacting to deft drop shots. Lohani also employs touch by mixing in well-disguised dinks to keep opponents off balance.
From the baseline, Lohani hits groundstrokes with pace and accuracy. He drives backhands and forehands to pin opponents deep in the court, setting up his offensive net game. Lohani also possesses a liking for running around his backhand to crack explosive inside-out forehand winners.
With his all-around proficient skills, explosive power, and competitiveness, Lohani has become one of the more dangerous unseeded players early in his professional career. As he refines his game even further, he has the potential to compete for major titles.
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Off the court, how does Lohani handle the demands of being a rising professional player?
Pursuing a professional pickleball career requires immense passion and commitment. For Lohani, balance is essential to manage his obligations on and off the court.
In addition to a 25+ hour weekly training schedule, Lohani works a full-time job as a data engineer at U.S. Bank. He structures his work hours to allow training before and after work, while utilizing vacation days for tournaments. Lohani also meticulously plans his travel and tournament calendar many months in advance.
Finding time for family, friends, and fun away from pickleball is also crucial for Lohani’s longevity in the sport. He makes spending quality time with his parents and younger sister a priority. Lohani also leans on a close group of college friends for support – they provide an important outlet beyond his intense pickleball focus.
To unwind and reset mentally, Lohani enjoys activities like cooking, reading, hiking, and watching movies. This downtime allows him to recharge for the next training block or tournament. By proactively balancing his personal and professional commitments, Lohani sustains the motivation needed to continue his rise.
What does the future look like for this promising young player?
At just 24 years old, Lohani’s best playing days are likely still ahead as he gains more experience against elite competition. In the short-term, Lohani is focused on improving his world ranking from its current mark around #50. He hopes to crack the top 25 by the end of 2023.
Further down the road, Lohani dreams of representing the U.S. at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, should pickleball earn a spot in the Games. He also aims to become a consistent threat at the Triple Crown events – the three majors of professional pickleball. Winning one of these prestigious tournaments would mark his breakthrough as a true title contender.
Off the court, Lohani plans to continue his engineering career while competing professionally. He balances both passions because he enjoys the mental stimulation of his job and stable income it provides. Lohani also wants to inspire other aspiring pros that it’s possible to play at the highest level while pursuing other career interests.
Of course, no journey ever follows a straight path. But with Lohani’s talent, determination, and thoughtful approach, he has all the tools needed to realize his ambitious dreams. No matter the outcome, it will be a thrill watching this engaging young player take pickleball by storm.
The Sky is the Limit for Pickleball’s Rising Phenom
Aanik Lohani’s journey from junior tennis standout to professional pickleball contender demonstrates how drive and dedication can allow one to thrive in a new sport. In just a few short years, Lohani has rocketed up the pickleball ranks to emerge as one of the most promising young stars.
While challenges inevitably lie ahead on the road to the very top, Lohani has the work ethic, training regimen, and belief in his abilities to overcome obstacles. As pickleball continues its meteoric growth, the stage is set for Lohani and his peers to take the sport to new heights through their world-class talent and contagious passion.
Lohani’s inspiring story shows that the potential of pickleball as a professional and spectator sport burns brightly. There is room for both men and women from diverse athletic backgrounds to push the boundaries and showcase incredible skills. For aspiring players worldwide, Lohani provides an example to follow of how embracing one’s passions and putting in the hard work makes dreams achievable. The sky is the limit for the phenom from Minnesota, and the future of pickleball along with him.