The Daily Northwestern

Q&A: Catching up with freshman phenom Sidarth Balaji

Sarah Kuta

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In his first year in Evanston, freshman Sidarth Balaji has solidifed his spot at No. 2 singles. Balaji went 2-0 last weekend against his opponents from Penn State and Ohio State. The 6-foot-1, 170-pounder from Fairfax, Va., won a National Open Championship as a 16-year-old and plays aggressively with his forehand. The Daily’s Sarah Kuta caught up with Balaji at a recent practice.

Excerpts:

Daily sports: How were you introduced to tennis?Balaji: I started playing when I was five. My dad took me to a small place near my house back in India, and I really liked it and I started playing from there. I would play two or three days a week when I was six and seven, and after that I started playing every day. He put me in my first tournament and I really liked it so I decided to get serious. I came to the U.S. when I was nine and started playing tournaments here. Things just got more serious after that.

DS: How did you choose Northwestern?Balaji: I really liked the team and the coach and the academics. It was a tough decision, but I knew that NU would be a good fit for me. I’ve always wanted to play in the Big Ten. NU had good academics as well as athletics.

DS: What was your best moment on the court?Balaji: In 2007, in the 16-and-under I won my first national tournament. I wasn’t expected to win it, but I won a couple of three-setters and then won in the finals.

DS: What’s your favorite thing about the game?Balaji: You’re in control of what you can do. It’s an individual sport. When it’s a tough situation, you can figure things out and you can use that in other situations. You’re able to adjust to surroundings that you’re in.

DS: Do you have any pre-match rituals?Balaji: I’m usually the first one out on the courts. I usually sit there for a few minutes by myself. There’s nobody out there on the courts, it’s just me for a couple minutes before the match starts.

DS: Who is your favorite pro tennis player?Balaji: I like Pete Sampras. I’ve always liked him and his kind of game and how he was able to stay consistent for a long time.

DS: How would you describe your playing style?Balaji: My playing style has always been being aggressive from the baseline and trying to control points from the baseline. I like to use my forehand to close out points.

DS: How would you describe your demeanor on the court?Balaji: I’m pretty quiet. I don’t usually show much emotion, very rarely. Once in a while, both negative and positive come out. Usually I’m pretty quiet.

DS: How do you feel about where you’re at with your game right now?Balaji: I’m playing pretty well. I’m starting to establish what my role is on the team. I’m still finding things I can keep working on and getting better.sarahkuta2012@u.northwestern.edu

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