Staff contributor Caroline Kleiner sat down with Cornell women’s tennis senior captain Priyanka Shah to talk about everything from Roger Federer to taking on Harvard.
This transcript has been lightly edited for content and clarity.
1.How did you fall in love with tennis?
That’s actually a funny story. I moved to Florida to play tennis and I was supposed to go to an academy there, but my older sister went to the academy because she’s a little better and I was too scared to go.
Those days, I went to a local park instead because I just hated tennis. I lied to my mom, “Oh, practice is cancelled.” I would stand behind one of the buildings and cry and not go to practice. But eventually, everyone there at that academy made me fall in love with the game and now it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
2. Did your tennis career in high school help prepare you for the intensity of Cornell tennis?
High school tennis is a little bit different than college tennis. I didn’t play that competitively within my high school, so I wouldn’t say it’s prepared me. It’s brought me a lot of great memories, but, college tennis is a whole different ball game.
3. What made you choose to come play for Cornell?
I just fell in love with the campus and I really liked the coach, the program and the girls. I thought there was a lot of room for me to grow here, academically and athletically. So I really took that to heart in my decision to come here.
4. Last year, you had a 14-4 singles record and helped the team win its first Ivy League title. What was that historic moment like?
It was amazing, there are no words that can describe it. I was also a captain that year and having that historic season for the program and for everyone, all the girls on this team, was incredible. I have so many memories of van rides and clinching points that I’ll never forget.
One moment was at Reis [Tennis Center] when we beat Harvard 4-3 and I was the only person on the court for about an hour during the third set. There were 50-100 people watching. The electricity … just knowing that I was going to win the whole time, even though it was close, is a moment I’ll never forget.
5. Is there a tennis player that you model your game after?
I really like Kim Clijsters: she’s very athletic and has a lot of passion on the court. In terms of exact replicating, I would say no. But, I also am a fan of Roger Federer. He’s just a class act and it’s inspiring to have that kind of composure on the court day in and day out.
6. What is the most memorable match you have played representing Cornell?
A pretty memorable matchup for me has always been our annual match against Harvard. For the last three years at Ivy League Champions since freshman year, I’ve been the one to clinch that match … I was the person who ultimately decided it and I hope to do that again this year.
7. How has becoming captain changed your responsibilities on the team?
It has definitely made me balance my relationship with my teammates and my coaches differently. It’s gotten me closer to my coaches, which has been great. I’ve also learned how to balance that with the relationships I have with my teammates, which is also incredibly strong. I naturally do set a great example, so that came easy to me. But, I’ve also taken to heart the responsibility of motivating others in trying to grow future leaders on this team.
8. Aside from tennis, what are your other hobbies?
I love being outdoors and experiencing nature and that’s why I really love Ithaca. I love hiking and going to the gorges. Another hobby of mine is trying new things like new sports and picking up different skills. I just picked up squash in the fall and it’s super, super fun. When I grow up, I’m making my kids play squash.
9. If you could spend a week anywhere in the world for free, where would you go?
I would go to Australia. I still have not been to Australia and I’m a dual citizen of Australia! I would spend more than a week there.
10. When you graduate from Cornell this May, what is going to be the one thing you’ll miss the most?
I’ll miss everything. To pinpoint, I’ll just miss coming to Reis every single day. This has become my home and I love every second of it.