Q&A With Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan
Jan. 16, 2009
Men's tennis sophomore Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan had a great first season, playing at the top of the Husky singles lineup all while adjusting to college life and vastly differnt surroundings than what he experienced growing up in Chennai, India. Nedunchezhiyan was ranked in singles during the year and earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention while helping the Huskies to the NCAA Championships. This season, the Huskies return nearly their entire roster, so Nedunchezhiyan and the rest of the Dawgs will look to capitolize on a year of hard work and maturity. Nedunchezhiyan talks with GoHuskies.com reporter Jeremy Cothran about his goals for the young season, his junior tennis experiences and a few of the differences between his native and current homelands.
GoHuskies.com: First off, how did you end up at the University of Washington from Chennai, India?
Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan: The coach, Matt Anger, he offered me a scholarship to play for the University and after thinking about it for a couple of months I decided this was the place to go.
GH: Did you take a visit? If so, what were your impressions?
JN: I didn't take a recruiting trip to the University before joining. But I was in New York with my mom, I was playing in the U.S. Open juniors, and my mom actually came to Seattle and met the coaches. She saw the University and she said, 'You would definitely like it.' So I just trusted her.
GH: How would you compare Chennai and Seattle?
JN: The biggest difference would be the weather. It's really warm, humid in Chennai throughout the year. We have the monsoons where it's heavy rains for like one month. And you know how Seattle is. It's just going to rain lightly for the whole year. It's pretty cold compared to India. But I got sick of the weather (in Chennai), just the heat. When you play tennis, you prefer it not to be so hot. For my tennis, Seattle is a better place to play. You don't get tired as easy. I like the weather in Seattle, which not a lot of people say.
GH: What do you like best about Seattle so far?
JN: I haven't really seen the city that much. I've just been on campus and around the campus area. I just love the campus. I don't really feel the need to go out in Seattle that much.
GH: What was the biggest adjustment, in terms of tennis, from playing the junior tours to playing on a collegiate level?
JN: The net court rule. They say in junior tennis that you can't stop the point if you hit the net and in college you play no matter what. Also, having the coaches help you out during the matches, that doesn't happen in the juniors, or the men's (professional) tour for that matter. That's the biggest adjustment between the two.
GH: During the summer, what did you focus on the most in terms of improvement?
JN: I went back home to India and I played a couple of ATP tournaments. I did alright in the doubles with my partner from India, and we made the quarters and the semis in a challenger tournament, which is one level below the pro circuit. But I just focused on staying healthy and fit for this season.
GH: You've played in some prestigious junior events like Wimbledon and the Australian Open. What was the experience like playing in those places?
JN: It's just as fun as you think it would be. Tennis players dream of that. You get so much attention and the courts are always reserved. The hotels, the lifestyle, everything is just perfect. But you also see how hard everyone works at the Grand Slams. You learn a lot just being around those kinds of players.
GH: I'm sure you've come across some of the greats on the professional tour?
JN: For me, I enjoyed meeting the doubles team from India's Davis Cup team - Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati. I've practiced with them quite often. At the Slams, I've never played with any of the pros that much. Oh, I did play against (current pro) Novak Djokovic. We lost. I played doubles in the decider match against him in junior Davis Cup in Essen, Germany.
GH: Where do you hope to be as a player by the end of the year?
JN: Our whole team is focused on staying on the process, on not really worrying about the result. Because we have a very young team, my goal is to not get too wayward and just work on the right things about my game, not get affected by great results or really poor results. Hopefully get better and better as I reach my senior year.
GH: You played a couple of No. 1 singles matches as a freshman last year. Did you feel a lot of pressure in those matches, or did your background help prepare you?
JN: I don't think anything you've done in the past can prepare you to play No. 1 in college tennis. It was definitely something different and it felt very nice. I played really well I feel. I was 2-0 and I played good matches at No. 1, which you kind of have to if you want to win. But it was fun, I enjoyed it.
GH: When you're not playing tennis, how do you relax?
JN: I play a lot of video games. I like the PS3, I'm addicted to it. I watch a lot of TV shows, that's the truth.
GH: Do you like American television?
JN: Oh, I love it. I watch everything. I watch '24,' 'Prison Break,' and I can't believe I'm saying this but I also started watching 'Grey's Anatomy.'
GH: Do you miss the food from back home at all?
JN: I've been traveling forever, it's not like I really miss it. Once in a while I'll go have some Indian food on the Ave. I really like this place, Cedars Restaurant. It's the best I've tasted so far.
GH: There are a lot of players returning this year. Does that put pressure on you to improve as a team because the nucleus is coming back?
JN: It's a fact. Everyone is playing a lot better, but I'm sure every college is working hard. I'm under the impression that every team is, and we need to do that too. But definitely we have the potential to at least be a top-10 team. At least. We need to live up to that, because I feel like we're capable of it.
GH: Are there any matches you are looking to in particular.
JN: I look forward to them all, but I really looking forward to our match (on Jan. 25) against the No. 1 team in the country, Ohio State. And the Pac-10 championships.
GH: This is a mostly international team. Has that helped you adjust to life in the States?
JN: There are so many guys from all over. There are barely in American guys on the team. It helps because I feel like a lot of us can relate to each other's situations, a lot of us missing home and such. That's helped the team bond I think. We all help each other, and we've done a good job as a team.