Tennis’s Alla is on his way to Florida

The men’s tennis team travelled to the University of Mary Washington on Sept. 28 to battle it out in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Southeast Regional Tournament.

The team went deep, with junior Christian Heaney-Secord and first-year Kenny Zheng making it to the semifinals, and sophomore Abhishek Alla taking home the singles title. Alla had to duke it out with two of his own teammates to obtain the coveted title.

In the quarterfinals, Alla faced teammate junior Will Duncan and beat him in an intense three-set match (4–6, 6–2, 7–5). “It was bittersweet — it was pretty early, and it was a good match,” Alla said. He explained how thinking of tennes as an individual sport is essential to winning.

“You have to do what you have to do,” he said. “No hard feelings.” However, beating Duncan was only the first step. Alla moved on to the semifinals, in which he defeated Zheng (6–4, 6–2). Finally, to win the ITA singles title, Alla crushed Ben Hwang of Johns Hopkins University (6–2, 6–1).

Commenting on Alla’s performance, Zheng said, “He was playing extremely well. I knew he was going to kill that kid in the finals.”

“I don’t really get nervous. I just knew I had to make a lot of balls and not make any unforced errors,” Alla said.

When he won, Alla was overjoyed that he would get to skip three days of school this week to play in the ITA National Small College Championships in Fort Meyers, Fla.

The Southeast Regional Tournament began with 64 teams. In order to be victorious, Alla had to win a series of six matches over three days. Alla emphasized that the hardest match was against his teammate Duncan, because “he was just that good.”

By the third day, most of the team had to head back to Carnegie Mellon for class and did not get to see Alla win the title. “It sucked that not everyone from the team was there,” Alla said.

Originally from Hyderabad, India, Alla has played tennis since he was 6 years old. “My parents wanted us to try out activities. We started playing tournaments, it got competitive, and we started traveling,” Alla said. He attended IMG Pendelton School, a boarding school in Florida, for his junior and senior years of high school.

However, attending Carnegie Mellon gave Alla his first opportunity to play on a team. “It’s just fun to be around [my teammates] — they push me to work hard,” Alla said. This sense of teamwork has become one of Alla’s favorite aspects of tennis.

Alla’s strengths as a player go beyond his technical ability.

“I have good defense and attack,” Alla explained, “but my serve is pretty weak. My movement consolidates everything.”

Alla also manages to do one of the more difficult things for a tennis player to do: keep his cool. “I don’t get too emotional on the court. My opponents get frustrated sometimes,” he said.

Winning this tournament means that Alla has gained the title of All-American, a title Alla has been keen on earning this year.

Advancing to the national tournament, which starts Thursday, he will face off against seven other regional champions from Division III.