TUSCALOOSA, Alabama.-Saketh Myneni, a freshman on the men’s tennis team, had to adjust to more than his surrounding when he came to Alabama in August for the fall semester. Myneni, hailing from Andhra Pradesh in southeast India, is used to a climate quite similar to Alabama’s. However, that might be the only similarity between the place he grew up and his new home.
When Saketh started playing tennis at age 11 with his father it was nothing more than a physical activity. Sports were not strong in his hometown and the only training he received was with his father on the recreational courts.
Shortly after Saketh started playing, he gained attention from numerous coaches in the vicinity telling him that his talent could take him to the next level. That being the case, Saketh’s family packed up and moved to a city that would afford their only son the chance to become a great tennis player.
After the move, Saketh began a more rigorous training schedule and played in numerous tournaments, catching the eye of more than a few scouts. The 6-5 native of India caught the eye of one person in particular that happened to be friends with Alabama head coach Billy Pate. Pate took his friend’s advice and invited Saketh to join the team.
In August of 2006, the India native packed up his belongings, said goodbye to his parents, and headed to the United States, leaving behind the only life he knew. Saketh found himself in a new place and without his parents for the first time in his life.
“In India, family is very important,” said Myneni. “For fun we like to gather as a family and watch a movie or have a meal. It is different from America where the people are more independent of their family.”
It did not take Saketh long to adjust to his new way of life, however. He began getting involved in campus life the minute he unpacked his things, aiding in his transition. He started by touring the campus and getting to know his surroundings, then, when the semester started he went to numerous home athletic events, including his first football game ever and immediately got started on his course work and making friends.
Tennis was not an easy adjustment either. In India, Saketh played mostly on clay courts where in Alabama the team plays on hard surfaces. It took Myneni about five months to adjust to the new surface, but with proper training and a little bit of time he modified his game and became a mainstay in the Alabama lineup.
“Saketh has added a lot to our team in many ways,” said Pate. “He is a very talented player and is a remarkable shot maker. Like a lot of players that hail from India, he is gifted at the net and a tremendous doubles player. He is also a very pleasant and gregarious young man that is a positive influence on his teammates. Saketh has the ability to develop into a big-time player for us at Alabama.”
Saketh made an immediate impact on the team posting a 10-2 doubles record in the fall with partner Joseph Jung. Myneni and Jung paired up in the Baylor Invitational, rallying to win the championship after being down match point in their first round contest.
As for life outside of tennis, Saketh is quickly becoming accustomed to the American way of life. Myneni has become one of the most well-known faces on campus in only a semester due to his outgoing personality and friendly smile and has made a name for himself in the classroom, earning a 4.0 grade point average in his first semester. Saketh would frequently double is required eight hour study hall commitment said Pate, often making the coaching staff wonder if he was faking the hours.
As for his ability to deal with change, Saketh’s bike was stolen the first week of school so now he just walks everywhere. He also gained a few pounds in his first few weeks in Alabama due to all the southern-style food and American-sized portions. Saketh has also gotten used to living with roommates since that concept does not exist in India.
One of Saketh’s roommates, teammate Houssam Yassine, came to American in January to start the spring season. Knowing what it is like to be new in a foreign country, Myneni has taken it upon himself to guide Yassine and help him in any way necessary to make his transition as smooth as his own.