Tennis star Alla excels in both school and athletics

Abhishek Alla connects with a forehand swing against Johns Hopkins. (credit: CMU Athletics) Abhishek Alla connects with a forehand swing against Johns Hopkins. (credit: CMU Athletics)

A leader on the Carnegie Mellon men’s tennis team, singles player Abhishek Alla, said that playing for the tennis team gives him an outlet for competition outside of the classroom. The civil and environmental engineering senior from Hyderabad, India has showcased dominant play over the last couple years, competing as the Tartan’s No. 1 singles player for the past two seasons and being named an All-American in singles both years.

When discussing his choice to participate in the team, he called attention to the break that tennis provides from a day full of academic activities. Alla embraces his participation in tennis for the sheer enjoyment of playing the game, alongside the competition. “I’m playing more seriously only because that’s a release from academics, and its more to fun to be on the court than to be somewhere else.”
In high school, Alla competed at a sports academy where all students were involved in athletics. Coming to Carnegie Mellon was a big change, but luckily he made the adjustment successfully. “I came in prepared for [school] to be harder, and then I guess it started off going well the first few weeks and then it just kept going that way.”

Entering school at Carnegie Mellon can definitely pose a challenge because of the amount of work for classes, and Alla noted that this creates an additional difficulty for athletes balancing time with sports. He points out that late in the season there is importance in “staying on top of all the academics so it doesn’t affect playing in the UAAs.” However, Alla also observed that the impact of sports can be a great positive force for the athletes in season. When in season, athletes learn to work efficiently for their classes, and use time outside of practice more effectively in order to operate under the added time pressure. Alla explained that since tennis teaches the players about “unconsciously finishing work” when they aren’t playing, there is a lot of free time. “I couldn’t see myself not playing.... Without tennis you have so much more free time.”

This makes a good lesson for the younger athletes, since Alla said that the younger members of the team are still learning to manage the heavy academic load and find balance with other activities. Alla sees losing sleep as the big pitfall to an student athlete looking to succeed in school and in tennis. He advised that “if you’re spending too much time on a problem you should just go to the TA and ask for help or just email someone instead of staying up for 12 hours doing it on your own.”

Successfully adjusting to the academic workload will be key for the tennis team this season. With a strong first-year presence on the team that is sure to be large part of the winning formula. Alla explained that a strong first-year work ethic this season is helping the new players make up for the loss of three of last years seniors from the varsity team.

Alla views this weekend’s upcoming competition against Walsh University as a good test of how both he and the team stack up competitively against the competition. In the tournament, he expects strong competition from both friendly and rival tennis players, including a strong players from both school whom Alla believes are likely to take the top seed in the match.

In addition to being able to cope with added academic responsibility, Alla explained the significance of the coaching staff in allowing the tennis players from both the men’s and women’s teams to train efficiently through the season. The tennis coaching staff must deal with limited court openings throughout the day, organizing times for all athletes on both tennis teams to take advantage of the courts while they are closed to public use during the day.On the whole, Alla’s experience handling tennis along with a typical student workload helps him succeed both on and off the court.