On the heels of a one-year absence from the sport, Divija Kottapalli finished her high school tennis career a champion.
Kottapalli and partner Ginny Anderson captured the Class A-AA state title for No. 2 doubles at Coonskin Park on May 11. The victory proved extra sweet for Kottapalli, who left tennis following her sophomore season to focus on academics.
“Her junior year, she had a lot of AP classes and college classes she was taking – honors classes,” coach Jill Anderson said of Kottapalli’s rigorous academic workload. “She came back this year and she hadn’t picked up a racket that whole year she was off, and it took her a little bit of time to get the nerves worked out and settled back in, but once she did, it was like she never left. She wanted it.”
It wasn’t clear Kottapalli would rejoin the Generals tennis team this year, either.
“I honestly didn’t think I would play this year, either,” Kottapalli said, “so I had to prepare myself for that, but it was honestly a last-minute decision. The week before try-outs, I just played that whole week. I just hit with a friend and I got back.”
In her time away from the court, Kottapalli lost some of the skill she once had, but she found other ways to excel in her comeback.
“Since I left, I lost my serve, which is pretty important,” Kottapalli said, “and I didn’t have time to find my full serve I had back, so I had to focus on other things like my forehand. I think that was probably my strongest and also just playing smart, placements. That’s what I relied on most.”
If Kottapalli lacked any physical abilities, she compensated by out-thinking her opponents, Jill Anderson said.
“Mentally, she could let things go,” Jill Anderson said. “If she had a bad shot before or had an error, she could work past that and play it point by point. She was smart, so she could look at angles. She would know if they’re running this way, I need to go this way, because they won’t be able to change their momentum quick enough. She would apply what she learned in the classroom to the court, and that was very beneficial to her.”
In singles play this season, Kottapalli advanced to regionals. However, in doubles she succeeded in finishing her career with partner Ginny Anderson in the fashion both started.
“States was at the same place where we won our first championship in sixth grade,” Kottapalli said, “so we kept telling ourselves we had to win again just so we could say that we did. It was the same court and everything.”
With her competitive high school tennis career behind her, Kottapalli now focuses on her collegiate decision, as she plans to major in biomedical engineering.