Nobody really knew where freshman Vikash Singh would end up when he came to the United States from India just a few years ago.
The tennis player bounced around states from Florida to South Carolina but ultimately ended up in Bloomington for the spring semester in January.
Singh grew up playing tennis down the street from his home in Koppal, India. He has loved the sport since he put his hands on a racket when he was 7.
After a few years of playing for enjoyment, Singh began to play competitively in tournaments when he turned 10, and that’s when he decided this sport could lead to more.
“I knew I wanted to pursue my tennis further,” Singh said. “My parents also wanted me to go further with my tennis.”
The only problem was Singh’s location.
College tennis is almost nonexistent in India, making it close to impossible for Indians to sustain a future in tennis.
That is why he ultimately made the decision to move to the United States and leave his family in India at the age of 14.
What made this choice even harder was the unfamiliarity Singh was about to enter. Singh said his family never knew anybody who moved to the U.S. for any sport in college.
So Singh set his sights on a goal he had dreamed of his entire life: to play collegiate tennis in America.
“It’s definitely difficult being away from your family for so long,” Singh said. “I try to keep in touch with them and visit as much as I can.”
Singh only visits home once or twice a year because of expensive flights.
While Singh can travel back to India sparingly, none of his family members have ever been to the States, not even his parents.
Singh said he hopes one day his family can travel from India to Bloomington and watch him play a collegiate tennis meet for the first time.
While transitioning to the U.S. from a foreign country like India is monumental in anybody’s life, all Singh wanted to do was settle in.
Singh’s journey began at the Bishop Gates Tennis Academy in Florida. As friendships were made and bonds with coaches were formed, Singh and the rest of the students were informed the academy would be closing the next year.
Singh was left alone in a foreign country. This was a truly a turning point in his life.
Singh and most of the students and coaches at Bishop Gates moved to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, for the Smith-Stearns Tennis Academy.
While the transition was easier, it wasn’t as seamless as it could’ve been.
Singh had to pack up and move from Florida to South Carolina in a matter of days while still looking for a place to live.
This was similar to his experience at Bishop Gates because he had to move in with people he barely knew. It was like moving into college and walking into your dorm room without even knowing who’s going to be on the other side of that door.
He went through that twice in two years.
After the move to Hilton Head, Singh really began getting noticed by colleges and offers started to roll in the door, but he had to work for it.
Coming from India, Singh was only allowed to play in the International Tennis Federation tournaments because he was considered an international player.
This decreased his chance of exposure to college coaches because he wasn’t allowed to play in the bigger tournaments like many of the top recruits in the country. Additionally, college coaches weren’t able to judge his talent against other top players because they weren’t playing on the same courts.
Ultimately, Singh received offers from IU and other colleges in the U.S. because of his involvement in ITFs and connections with coaches through the Smith-Stearns Tennis Academy.
When it came time for Singh’s college decision, there was no doubt in his mind that IU was the place for him.
“IU really stood out to me,” Singh said. “I really loved the campus and felt like I was really at home.”
While his journey from India to IU was long and detailed, his career as a student-athlete in Bloomington has just begun, and his teammates look forward to playing with him.
"We're just excited to see the future with him," freshman Patrick Fletchall said. "It should be fun."
While Singh continues to get used to his new life, Fletchall said he had no issues getting along with his fellow freshman.
"Vikash is a great kid and brings so much energy and fight to the team," Fletchall said. "It was a pretty easy adjustment."
Singh saw his first action against Middle Tennessee State University on Feb. 1 and led IU to a victory after winning his singles match against Pavel Motl.
For the first time in his life, Singh can say he accomplished his lifelong goal of playing collegiate tennis.
But this is just the beginning.
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