After a five-month layoff, the Mean Green tennis team began the 2020-21 season at the TCU Invitational on Friday and lasted until Sunday. The team faced off against Texas, Baylor, Texas Christian and others. After three days of competition, the team picked up eight wins, with seven of their eight players all picking up at least one win.
Coach Sujay Lama said he was impressed with the team’s ability to improve throughout the tournament, despite the long break.
“There was some rust,” Lama said. “However, you could see by the second day we were getting better, and the third day we looked really solid.”
Senior Nidhi Surapaneni was able to secure two wins out of the three singles matches she played at the invitational. While she enjoyed the two singles wins she got at the tournament, she explained that her loss against the high ranking Texas player is the match she was actually most happy with.
“The first two matches I won, but I was not happy with the way I played,” Surapaneni said. “I lost the third match but I was very happy with the way I performed. I was aggressive and I played the way I wanted to play.”
Junior Lucie Devier was able to grab two singles wins at the invitational, along with a doubles victory. The opportunity to play against real competition allowed her to understand where her game is at after the break.
“We didn’t play much during the break, so we could not compare our levels to the other players,” Devier said. “So it was nice to see where I am and how everyone else is doing.”
The TCU Invitational was not slacking on competition, with Texas and Baylor specifically being top-5 and top-15 teams in the country. Even with the competition, Lama was very impressed by the way the team raised their level to match them.
“Just to see our kids raise their level to compete against them was one of the highlights,” Lama said. “It just lets us see we’re not too far, we’re right there.”
While everyone did play well in Lama’s eyes, there are still quite a few things he believes they can work on. Namely, closing out matches.
“There’s so much data we got from this tournament,” Lama said.”There were several times we had some critical points that could’ve changed the whole complexion of the match if we had won them.”
For Devier, the most difficult part of coming out of the layoff was maintaining a high level of focus throughout all of the matches she played.
“Trying to keep focused after a long time was tough,” Devier said. “The main thing I focused on was maintaining the same level through all the matches and not thinking too much.”
However, Lama is most proud of the team for fighting through every match. While they may not have won every match, the way they fought through every match was something he is proud of.
“What I appreciated from our team was that we had incredible attitude and fight,” Lama said. “They just gave off the feeling of ‘I’m going to be relentless, I’m going to battle.’”
While it can be difficult to adjust to a match-mentality, both Surapaneni and Devier said that the practice they did beforehand that simulated match environments helped them get into the right mental state more quickly.
“We’ve been playing matches during practice, so I was able to go into the matches with the right mindset,” Surapaneni said.
Surapaneni said that while she enjoyed finally competing, finally being able to travel with her team and bond with them was her favorite part of the invitational.
“Playing was not the only thing, I really liked spending time with the new team,” Surapaneni said. “Spending time with each other, getting to know each other on and off the court was really fun.”
Lama echoed these statements, praising the team chemistry and saying how obvious it is that the team enjoys one another.
“The energy, the togetherness, and the vibes are great,” Lama said. “They genuinely love each other. It’s my 25th year being collegiate level and it feels special. There’s something special about this team.”
With the tennis team wrapping up their first tournament of the year, Lama expressed he’s excited about what’s to come once they can work on their game more.
“We’ve only had a few weeks together and this is the first tournament. There’s a lot of potential here,” Lama said. “When we finally piece it all together, it’s going to be beautiful.”
Featured Image: Senior Nidhi Surapaneni prepares to hit a ball during a team practice on Feb. 18, 2020. Image by Scout Streit