An e-mail and amateur video brought Hyderabad, India, native Nischela Reddy to the University of Minnesota.
The coaches brought her footwork up to par, and with help, Reddy has now brought Minnesota to the forefront of women’s Big Ten tennis.
Despite unorthodox recruiting practices that could have led to just about anything, everything has turned up roses for Gophers’ coach Tyler Thomson.
The e-mail which started Reddy’s recruiting process wasn’t even intended to reach the Twin Cities. Thomson received a forwarded copy of Reddy’s intentions to play college tennis in the United States from Miami coach Tari Ann Toro.
And he’s been reaping the benefits ever since.
“I was in a difficult position,” Thomson said. “I had just started as coach here, and I had four scholarships to fill.”
In fact, Thomson needed little more than the e-mail to be convinced of Reddy’s worthiness. The e-mails dictated that a conscientious person was on the other end, and the grainy videotape Reddy supplemented was all it took.
Thomson calls Reddy’s audition tape funny because of the children running around being paid a couple cents to act as ball boys.
Still, when Thomson was able to divert his attention from the children and focus on Reddy’s game, he was convinced.
“In the video, it was hard to tell how good she was,” Thomson admits. “It was on clay and I didn’t get a feel for her footwork. I decided she looked like she hit the ball well, and she wanted to come here.”
This last reason might have been the kicker for Thomson. Rolling the dice on keyboards and cassettes because he needed to fill the roster, Thomson offered Reddy a scholarship and she accepted. When she came to Minnesota, Thomson got exactly what he expected – but only because he was without any expectations for her footwork.
“Girls in India are usually more passive with their footwork,” the freshman said. “That’s one of the biggest problems with Indian women’s tennis. So I was looking forward to making some big improvements in my footwork when I came here.”
When she first did ladders, a foot quickness drill, Thomson compared her to a first-grader among seniors.
Working with Thomson, assistant coach Kristin Sanderson and the physical trainers have helped Reddy improve on these aspects of her game, and the results show.
After the Big Ten tournament last weekend, Reddy holds a 12-1 record against conference foes, playing predominantly at No. 5 singles. She has won her last nine conference singles matches while the Gophers won the regular season title and made it to the tournament championship.
Teaming with roommate Angela Buergis, the two have accumulated a 10-1 conference doubles record. Their only blemish on the year came last Sunday versus the sixth-ranked doubles pair in the country.
But with all Reddy has done for the program, her coach still can’t get her name right.
Though her full name is Boda Nischela Reddy, her first name is actually a family name. When “Nischela” was a little difficult to pronounce and a bit too close to that of teammate Michaela Havelkova, the team decided “Boda” was best.
Still, being called by her family name didn’t register with Reddy. Everyone involved seems to have found a happy medium with the nickname “Nisch” (pronounced ‘neesh’) – except Thomson. He can’t seem to grasp the new name.
“Everything takes time,” Reddy said laughing. “I don’t really care. He can call me whatever he wants to.”
And as long as Reddy wins as much as she has been, she can have as many names as she pleases.