Shinde Shines in Fearless Tennis Journey
A sport can transform its players in many different ways.
It can give some tenacity, where it gives others patience. It can prove strengths, or magnify weaknesses. It can take you to new places, or give you a reason to always stay where you’ve come from.
For junior Vasanti Shinde, tennis eliminated fear.
“One thing my dad says, is I’m not really scared of a lot of things,” Shinde said when asked to describe her greatest fears. “I’m not scared of failing, which is sometimes not really good for you, because then you just don’t care. My mom traveled with my brother all the time when he was a kid, and my dad was working, so I’d do everything for myself. I’d go to school, come back home, get the keys for my house from upstairs, come down, open the door, just chill by myself, do things just by myself. Get myself to practice or go downstairs and play with kids.”
Shinde’s childhood was guided by independence, intuition and trust from her parents, who always knew she was capable of doing what she needed to do. At age 13, seven years after Shinde first picked up a racket, tennis gave the 2012 Walchand Cup Under-16 National Series Junior Singles and Doubles Champion the opportunity to travel the world.
“One thing [people] are always surprised to know, is before I came here, I don’t think I was at home for more than two months at a time,” Shinde said. “So I wasn’t in one place for more than two months, and I liked it. I never really missed home. I liked being on the road all the time.”
The player who was ranked No. 158 by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) spent her high school years traveling to nearly every continent, from Australia and Uzbekistan to Austria and Mauritius, a small island east of Madagascar. She embraced different cultures and new friends each place she went. Up until age 18, Shinde would sometimes travel to three to four countries in five to six weeks, all while making it home in time to pass her yearly high school exams.
When it came to Shinde’s last year in the ITF, the Pune, India, native decided in April that she needed a college to compete for by the following August. Without time to make any visits and with the advice of a local friend, Shinde committed to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“I think there’s a lot more to picking a school than just the sport,” Shinde said. “Like, all these other opportunities that other schools don’t really have, or they don’t give. We have extra opportunity funds, we have the $7,500 we get after we graduate for graduation or internships, we get laptops; they try to give us everything they possibly can, so they try to make your life as easy as possible. My brother did college tennis too, so he told me how hard it’s going to be once you go there, so that was one of the biggest reasons I came here.”
Since committing, playing two successful seasons with over 33 personal wins each, and earning the No.1 spot in the lineup by her sophomore year, Shinde has found that collaboration and respect are two components that sets Nebraska apart from most college tennis programs.
“As international kids are training under coaches who’ve trained professional players, you have this expectation from coaches, you’re expecting to be treated in a certain way,” Shinde said, describing the freedom given to players in the junior pros. “You don’t just listen to whatever they say. As a tennis player, like anybody outside knows, you kind of get into arguments, or like ‘I don’t agree.’ This is the one place you can do that. You can have a conversation, you can be like, ‘I don’t agree,’ or, ‘I don’t think that’s right,’ or they’ll explain why they think they’re right and you can explain why you think you’re right. I don’t think you can do that in lots of other colleges. [There,] it’s really like, ‘I decide and I’ll tell you what’s right and I’ll tell you what’s wrong.’ They don’t really care about your life after those four years. Here, they do.”
Although coming from a city filled with three million people, diverse foods, artwork and castles, the smaller, quieter capital city of Nebraska has been an enjoyable and enriching step along Shinde’s path. She frames her wins as team wins, and cherishes time spent off the court with her teammates more than time spent on the court. The court has always been there, but it’s most importantly the reason she’s had every experience outside of it.
Shinde said she’s nevertheless eager for the upcoming spring season and the waves Nebraska is hoping to make among Big Ten competition.
“We want to make NCAA’s,” Shinde said. “This is the strongest we’ve been since 2013, just as players. We just have so many players who can play, you can’t really decide who’s going to go on. It’s not an easy pick.”
Head Coach Scott Jacobson said he appreciates the competitive edge and camaraderie Shinde brings to the Huskers.
“Vasanti is an incredible ball striker, and is most competitive when fighting during team competition,” Jacobson said. “Vasanti has had the healthiest fall of her collegiate career and this should benefit her and our team this coming spring. In addition, Vas has exceptional doubles skills and a very strong left serve. Vas is all about team and a tremendous gift to our Husker family.”
The ambitious athlete is also busy when it comes to the books, earning a spot on the Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll four times in a row. While Shinde wants to pursue her dream of playing professional tennis, the economics and marketing major also plans to attend graduate school for business analytics in her future. Shinde has also been named to the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team two times.
As for where she’ll end up, Shinde said she’s always imagined herself traveling without end, moving every couple of years from continent to continent. But wherever she goes, and wherever she’s gone, she’s had tennis to thank for shaping her into who she is.
“I don’t think I’d make the same amount of friends if I didn’t have tennis,” Shinde said. “And I don’t think I’d meet the same number of people who are willing to meet new people and have new friends. It opened up so many things for me, traveling and making new friends from so many different countries, so many different religions, so many different cultures. Knowing how to talk to them, knowing what is offensive, what is not offensive. Being able to live in a completely different country. I think just the way I’m comfortable with all of that now.”
Shinde said tennis is what’s led her through life and gave her everything she has now. When asked again about her fears, Shinde has no question about how tennis impacted them.
“[Athletes] are like a step ahead of a lot of kids,” Shinde said. “Some things aren’t going to scare us anymore.”