In Bangladesh, tennis is a sport which almost never enjoys the limelight. There are several reasons for this, but the most obvious one is the lack of facilities and high performing players in the country. But what if Bangladesh had someone who has already played top-level tennis?
Well, Bangladesh kind of has someone. His name is Jonathan Mridha, a Sweden-born Bangladeshi tennis player. He has already played in ITF Men's circuit, Davis Cup, Challenger tours and ATP tours, sitting on 558 in the men's singles ranking. His highest-ever ranking was 508 and he has won games at the Davis Cup and Challenger tours.
Jonathan's father, Rahman Mridha moved to Sweden when he was 18 to study. After completing his education, Rahman started to work for a pharmaceutical company where he met Maria Barcelo and they got together. In 1995, Jonathan was born.
Jonathan had an interest in both football and tennis during his childhood and played both simultaneously until he was 10. But then he decided to take up tennis as he liked the fact that in tennis, as an individual sport, the results were completely up to him.
"I played both football and tennis until I was 10. Then I realised that I like the individual sport more because everything was up to me. Also, I was a bit better at tennis so it was kind of a natural transition to playing only tennis. Also, when you move to a big city like Stockholm, it's tough to continue with all the sports. You cannot just take your bike everywhere because those are at pretty far distances. I started to play in junior tournaments," said Jonathan.
Jonathan has already played in ATP and Challenger tours and also in the Davis Cup but his goal is to play in the grand slams.
"Yes I have played in the Davis Cup, ATP and Challenger tours. My next step is playing in a grand slam and I hope it will be next year or the year after that," said Jonathan.
But the thorn in Jonathan's path has been his knee injury which has thwarted his progress. But with his fitness returning to 100%, Jonathan believes that the US Open at the end of next year might be a good start for him.
"I have been unlucky with injuries. Well, it's a part of the game. My knees are worse than those of my fellow tennis colleagues I guess. So it made me kind of stand still a bit in my progress, in my game. I wasn't able to work as much as I wanted to. I could not play and travel as much as I wanted to. Now I feel like I am 100% fit and I wanna play as many tours as possible and get into a grand slam as soon as it can happen. My goal is to play grand slams from next year. Maybe by the end of next year, qualifying for the US Open can be a good start," said the 25-year old.
Jonathan, who has already represented Sweden in the Davis Cup, is willing to represent Bangladesh in events like the Olympics. But he is unsure on how to go about things and the Bangladesh Tennis Federation has not contacted him yet to represent Bangladesh.
"Yes, I would be willing to represent Bangladesh in the Olympics. I have been playing for Sweden all my life. I feel Swedish but I also feel a bit Bangladeshi.
I haven't been in contact with the federation. So, I don't think it's very easy to switch. And after you have played in the Davis Cup, there are a lot of things to be done (to switch). I don't know how things work in that part of the world. But I don't want to say I don't want to play for Bangladesh," Jonathan explained.
Jonathan's father spoke with the federation once or twice but that did not transpire into anything. But Jonathan is not losing hope as he believes that something can be done.
"I think my dad has spoken to them (Bangladesh Tennis Federation) once or twice but nothing serious happened and I also have not really looked into it. I don't know what the options are. But I think in the future we can do something. It will be fun to do something for Bangladesh and give something back," added Jonathan.
Bangladesh football got its biggest boost when Jamal Bhuyan, the Denmark-born midfielder, joined the Bangladesh team. The same might happen to tennis if Jonathan, a player who has played top-level tennis already, decides to represent the red and green flag.
For now, the federation has not taken any steps and it remains a wishful dream that Jonathan will feature for Bangladesh. But for a sport which has had little to no success for Bangladesh, what is wrong with a little dreaming?