Longtime badminton player picks up the tennis racket for WHS

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Longtime badminton player picks up the tennis racket for WHS
Sahasra Kommineni (Photo/Evan Walsh)

WESTBOROUGH – Tennis and badminton: both require the use of rackets, both are played on similar-looking courts, and both involve the back-and-forth of opponents hitting an object over an obstacle.

Yet, for two sports that look alike, there are some fairly dramatic differences.

Just ask Sahasra Kommineni.

A longtime badminton player, the Westborough sophomore officially converted to tennis at the start of her freshman season last year. Now, Kommineni is an important contributor on a Westborough girls tennis team looking to make it to the MIAA Division 2 championship game for the third straight year.

“I feel like the only similarity for me is the fact that they both need hand-eye coordination. Definitely, it was a difficult transition. It might look like, ‘Oh, they’re both racket sports, they should be the same.’ But it was completely different for me. It was definitely hard to transition into it, but I feel like my coaches did really well helping me into it,” she told the Community Advocate.

From birdie to ball

For much of her life, Kommineni was dedicated to badminton.

In second grade, she started to train with her sister and dad, often practicing six or seven days per week as she grew older. Trying to balance her practice schedule and academics, Kommineni decided to try something new. After speaking to a family friend who was Westborough’s former number-one singles player, Kommineni chose to pick up tennis — even though she hadn’t touched the sport since kindergarten.

The transition was difficult, she said, but Kommineni was able to use her badminton skills to figure out tennis. Although the sports are different, certain things translated.

“Clearly there’s hand-eye coordination and practice holding something with a handle, head and strings. That’s a similarity between [the sports], but I think the biggest thing with Sahasra is that she’s played a racket-court sport. Her ability to swing a tennis racket — maybe that’s natural athletic ability — but her ability to win tennis points comes from having played competitive badminton,” Westborough Head Coach Scott Henderson said. “She’s got the attitude of never giving up, and she’s got great court awareness.”

But little could have prepared Kommineni for how her tennis career would actually begin.

New to tennis, Kommineni didn’t start the first few matches for Westborough. But then, an athlete on her team was injured. Having picked up the sport just months earlier, the freshman took the court: “It was a learning process,” she said.

“I had to roll with it,” said Henderson. “Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you get unlucky. With Sahasra, I definitely got lucky. We put her in a competitive situation right away, and she delivered.”

Finding community

Aside from the on-the-court play, Kommineni described another way that badminton and tennis differ. Whereas badminton is more individual, playing tennis has given her an opportunity to become part of a team. She’s embraced that opportunity, and she loves traveling to matches with the group.

“I had never really experienced a team sport, but being with them now it’s so fun going to matches. Usually you’re alone with your thoughts, or maybe I’m with my dad, but I’ve made so many new friends from it. We all love playing tennis. It’s fun being with people while doing it,” Kommineni said.

Even the tennis community outside of Westborough has been supportive. Thrown into the fire early in her tennis career, Kommineni had to learn proper tennis etiquette on the fly. It took some time, she said, but she never felt judged or uncomfortable. In fact, she felt supported by just about everyone, even opponents.

According to Henderson, Kommineni has become one of the team’s leaders.

“She’s definitely a leader on the team… She’s the right level of fun and engaging and serious, and I think other kids pick up on that, and they want to be that way too,” he said.

Kommineni now devotes significant time to tennis, but that doesn’t mean she’s left badminton altogether. In fact, badminton is still very much a part of her life: She plays with family, organizes tournaments for charity and attempts to bring people together at Boston Badminton in Westborough.

The situation is perfect: She loves her tennis family and her badminton family equally.

 

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