The city of Hyderabad, India sits roughly 8,130 miles away from Philadelphia. For Anutej Yadiki, the trip might as well be to Mars.
“It is like traveling to a different planet here,” Yadiki, a freshman, said.
His hometown of Hyderabad ranks as the fourth-most populous city in India.
He likes it “because of the friendly people.”
Yadiki said he puts his family members before all else. The enthusiasm of his mother is a pivotal reason he is playing collegiate tennis in a foreign country, he said.
“My family has always supported me, they were the ones who told me about college tennis,” Yadiki said. “Up until that point I had no idea about college tennis. … Once I was told about that I started to work towards my goal of playing [NCAA] Division I tennis.”
Through the enthusiasm of his family and his own passion for the game, Yadiki said he’s envisioning greater aspirations in tennis, goals that extend beyond the collegiate ranks.
“I would love to play for my country,” Yadiki said. “For my singles career, I would like to be in the Top 100 of the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings. With that, I will be able to play in the Olympics.”
After coach Steve Mauro saw Yadiki’s tennis film, he said he knew the freshman would be a valuable asset to his team.
“After watching his video, I saw that he could be a good player,” Mauro said. “He had some decent finishes in the International Tennis Federation tournaments. … I liked the fact that he is a good student and I thought he would be a good addition to the team.”
Anticipating the transition would be hard for the international student, Mauro advised Yadiki to keep his priorities in line, particularly his work in the classroom.
“I told [Yadiki] to focus on his studies,” Mauro said. “At this point that is his main priority, while he is getting acclimated with the style of play and the conditioning we do as a team.”
Yadiki has also made an impression on his teammates, gaining appreciation from the team’s lone senior, Hernan Vasconez.
“[Yadiki] works extremely hard,” Vasconez said. “At first, I think he was a little shocked with how we work here, especially with conditioning, but I think he is doing so much better now.”
Vasconez attributed Yadiki as the most quiet of the team’s new additions, noting the language barrier as the primary reason.
“[Anutej] was the shyest one out of the new players,” Vasconez said. “I think it was mainly because the other two were Americans. … The language barrier always plays a key role for international athletes.”
With 80 percent of the team’s players originating from outside of the U.S., Vasconez said this factor is something that the international athletes can use as a way to bond with each other.
“The teams that I have always played on were made up of international players,” Vasconez said. “I have connected with Anutej because we are international players and it is something the majority of the team shares as well.”
When it comes to his future endeavors after leaving Temple, Yadiki is adamant on his desired endgame – a professional career.
“After I graduate from Temple with a good GPA and attain my mechanical engineering degree, I want to play tennis long after college,” Yadiki said. “I would like to play singles into my 30s and doubles into my 40s, as long as my body can carry me on the court.”
Compared to education in the United States, India has a different structure for athletics and education, one that helped spur Yadiki’s move to the states.
“In India, the system of education is tough,” Yadiki said. “If you study [engineering], for example, it is almost impossible to play tennis. The times are fixed and there is no flexibility within the system to play tennis. You have college from eight in the morning till four in the afternoon, and with large amounts of homework it is difficult to play tennis.”
Yadiki knew what he was getting into when he made the trip across the globe, but after a while, he said he is starting to feel comfortable.
“The U.S. is completely different from India,” Yadiki said. “Especially Temple, because it is one of the most diverse colleges I have seen. I like the campus. It is large, spacious and the housing on campus itself is safe.”
“It’s taking a little while to get used to America,” Yadiki added. “I feel comfortable here at Temple and it is beginning to feel like home already.”
Dalton Bathaser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org