INDIAN HILL, Ohio – Four years back, as a Cincinnati Country Day School freshman, Vishaal Nalagatla, wearing cargo khaki shorts with a mountain of over grips covering an ancient racket, decided to try out for the high school tennis team.
Prior to that, tennis was a hobby, far from something he took seriously.
Today, the argument could be made that Nalagatla is the most successful tennis player in Ohio high school history.
“We kind of run a loose try out because we’re such a small school,” said CCD tennis coach Matt Dektas. “It’s basically whoever plays tennis and then whoever doesn’t play — you can tell pretty quick; what they’re wearing, or if they have a decent stroke at all.
“Vishaal came out wearing his cargos and (fellow CCD tennis player) Kevin Yu came up to me. I’m like, ‘Is there anyone else I’m forgetting? Kevin, we have our eight.’ Kevin’s like, ‘You might want to put this kid (Nalagatla) at nine.’
“I said, ‘Come here man, what’s your name,’ and he said Vishaal. I asked to see his racket. He had a grip size my grandpa would have. Way too big, just terrible. I said, ‘You can be on varsity if you take three of these grips off.’ He had like five over grips on.”
Nalagatla, who a few months ago won his third straight doubles state championship, becoming the first player in OHSAA history to win three straight doubles titles with three different partners, said, “Freshman year, well, the first thing I heard was Asher (Hirsch), J.J. (Wolf) and Patrick (Wildman) were there. Then Shaheel (Mitra) and Kevin (Yu) came in also. Everyone was just like there’s no way you’re gonna make it. I went and saw them play and I was like there’s no way I’m gonna make this team this year.”
He did make the team, but he didn’t play very much. CCD won the state team title that year and Nalagatla was bitten by motivation.
“I never took tennis seriously until the summer after my freshman year,” said Nalagatla, who…