A tennis champ in India before settling in Kentucky, Merchant now ranks in the top 25 in the world for men’s doubles in pickleball. As one of the oldest players on the pro circuit at 49, this dad of three has some keen insights into the game.
ANY ADVICE FOR OLDER PLAYERS?
I always joke, pick a young partner! But the beauty of pickleball is, if you can hit a good third shot and you’re a consistent dinker who can move the dink around, you will compete in every single match you play.
DESCRIBE YOUR MORNING ROUTINE.
I’m up at 3:20 a.m. every day and I run 6 miles. Then I’m at the club and I drill from 5:45 to 7:10 a.m. I’m a financial adviser, so by 7:45 a.m. I’m reading my morning research on bond reports and portfolio earnings.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLAYING WEAK SPOTS READERS CAN LEARN FROM?
I always back up and hit dinks because I’m ultra conservative. I wish I was more aggressive and stayed on the kitchen line more, because my dinks create a lot of opportunities that I don’t take advantage of.
NUMBER-ONE TIP FOR BUILDING STAMINA?
Drilling. Especially two-on-one drillings where you are against two people and you’re just constantly moving the ball around.
WHAT OFF-COURT EXERCISE BOOSTS YOUR GAME?
I’m not very good at post-match stretching, so yoga has kept me from getting injured. I’ve also done a lot of core work, which helps because a lot of the time you’re on one leg or you’re leaning over. Yoga has really balanced me in uncomfortable positions on the pickleball court.
A FAVORITE TOURNAMENT TRADITION?
I love hanging out in the amateur tent. They’re like, “What are you doing here?” And I go, “Ah, I heard the Gatorade over here is better.” It’s just fun.