Myneni brings a smile to the court

Britton Lynn

Transitioning from high school tennis to a top collegiate tennis program is not an easy move for an athlete, but the change from living in Andhra Pradesh, India, your whole life and then moving to Tuscaloosa can be even tougher.

Luckily for Saketh Myneni, a senior on the Alabama men’s tennis team, he said he has always had an outgoing personality, making the move easier.

“Saketh off the court is a really great person,” said senior Houssam Yassine. “He’s really friendly. He knows pretty much everyone on this campus. If I walk on campus with him he’s going to say hi to 50 people before we get to class. When I got here [from Morocco], he’s the one that helped me out with everything.”

He even uses his positive attitude and contagious personality to help encourage his teammates before matches. On the tennis team, Myneni stands as the go-to person for meeting new people and having fun.

“He’ll talk to everybody,” said head coach Billy Pate. “He’s very likeable. He’s the PR guy for the team. When we are doing things for the public or the community, he’s the first guy to talk to people.”

For the past three summers, Myneni has worked in a high-end New York country club teaching tennis lessons and working in the pro shop. He said many members have really begun to enjoy his visit up there each summer, which shows his charisma could be a factor in how his transition to from one country to another was not too difficult.

“I got used to it like the first week or so during orientation,” Myneni said. “[The culture shock] wasn’t that bad. I was expecting something similar.”

It would be difficult to believe moving to a place 8,000 miles away would be easy, but Myneni said making friends early is what guided his transition.

“[I made] new friends really fast during my first couple weeks of school, which helped me get used to the place and made me feel at home,” he said.

But Myneni did come to Alabama for a reason — to play tennis. He started off his freshman year at No. 6 in the lineup, and the next year he jumped to No. 1, where he has been for the past three years.

Thirty minutes before each match, he tries not to speak, giving him a peace of mind entering into each duel. He said his passion for the game drives him to play. But, to the fans in the state of Alabama, only one thing is important in a season — for the Crimson Tide to beat archrival Auburn. Myneni quickly caught on to the rivalry, and now, when he thinks of his favorite memory in all of his tennis experiences, only one comes to mind.

“Beating Auburn freshman year at their place,” Myneni said. “We were down 3-1 and we came back to win. It was awesome. The conditions were not suitable for us because they had a home-court advantage and it was the last regular season match of the year.”

Myneni’s competitive spirit paid off. Last season Alabama named him its Most Valuable Player and Most Improved Player and was an All-Southeastern Conference selection. If being one of the top players in the nation and having the most charm on the team is not enough, Myneni also holds a 3.7 GPA as a finance major. He is currently nominated for the highest honor a student-athlete can receive in the Southeastern Conference, the H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete Award.