Although St. Edward’s University was forced to discontinue six of its Division II athletic programs, former Tompkins tennis state champion Anish Sriniketh already planned on this year being his …
Although St. Edward’s University was forced to discontinue six of its Division II athletic programs, former Tompkins tennis state champion Anish Sriniketh already planned on this year being his last in Austin with a transfer to Texas A&M on the horizon even before the pandemic cut his sophomore season short.
“A lot of the guys on the team and other teams are left in a state of uncertainty,” Sriniketh said in a phone interview Saturday. “All the sports that were cut are teaming together to get the programs back and we have a petition that 10,000 people have signed.”
Men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf and men’s soccer are the sports shutdown while cheerleading will be transitioning to a club sport.
Sriniketh had been starting out on a promising second season, holding a No. 4 ranking in the nation before the National Collegiate Athletics Association canceled the rest of its spring seasons on March 12.
Still, he and his coach came into this season knowing Sriniketh would be an Aggie next year so luckily, he was ahead of the process some of his teammates are entering if they want to transfer to continue their athletic careers.
“I thought it was the right decision for me, I wanted a higher level of tennis as well as the different atmosphere,” Sriniketh said of what led to his decision to transfer. “I love St. Ed's and the tennis and the school, but I think what was best for me right now was just a change in the level of competition, I want to improve my tennis to see where it can take me.”
Sriniketh’s head coach at St. Edward’s, Estevam Strecker, wholeheartedly supported his decision because part of the commitment included the possibility of Sriniketh jumping up to the Division I ranks. Now that it’s coming true, Strecker sees the transition similar to “trading in a Honda and buying a Porsche.”
“Anish was a dream-come-true recruit for a school and program like St. Edward's,” Strecker said. “In the summer of 2018, I probably was the luckiest head coach of the entire NCAA because this is a guy that is top five in the state of Texas, a lefty, an absolutely beautiful tennis player; and he's not being recruited by anybody. … One of the things that we talked about during the recruiting process was, ‘Look, you're not really getting any interest from Division I schools but I feel like you eventually can get to that level.’”
The hard work they put in seems to be paying off and Sriniketh elaborated on representing the Tompkins Falcons on the college circuit.
“It's really cool to see how far I've gone since playing for Tompkins,” he said. “Going from St. Ed's and now to A&M, it's crazy. I hope I can inspire a few kids to also play college tennis. I've talked to some of the guys and they want to play college tennis and I hope I can just help them and they can see how I'm doing and they can get inspired to play tennis at the next level as well.”
His high school coach, Joshua Martinez, saw Sriniketh’s potential early although it’s hard to ignore a sophomore at the state championships.
“As soon as he came on campus, he was legit,” Martinez said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “He took third in district as a freshman in a really, really tough district. His second year, he won the district and went to the state tournament and then the third year he struggled a little bit and ended up taking third in district. His goal his senior year was to go undefeated, and he only had one loss the entire year in the regional final to the kid that he ended up beating in the state final.”
Martinez added that he’ll soon have another Sriniketh on the team as Anish’s seventh-grade sister, Ananya, is coming into her own as a tennis player although there are some stark similarities in the siblings’ playing styles.
“He's a really good role model for her and can help her progress,” Martinez said. “Really looking forward to getting her in a year or so. … She's a really nice girl and a very similar tennis player to him, which is kind of scary considering how good he was.”
Anish already knows the sibling rivalry is on but they pair have been able to push each other in this time without sports to remain in shape for when they can play once again.
“She always wants to do one better than me in everything we do,” Sriniketh said. “No matter if we're playing cards or if we're playing some game or whatever, she wants to do one better than me. She already said she wants to win two state championships so that she can have one more than me.”
Still, he’s been appreciating his time at home and hopes St. Edward’s can keep the programs running.
“It's a little different with the situation but I like it a lot,” he said of transitioning from college living back to living under his parents’ roof. “I’m spending a lot of time with family, it's really fun. A lot of people are saying, ‘I'm so bored,’ but I'm having a really nice time actually.”