UH tennis Manasi Reddy’s journey as only UH student-athlete of Indian descent
In a notably diverse and culturally-infused campus, tennis sophomore Manasi Reddy is the lone student-athlete in all of UH athletics with an Indian lineage, which she is prideful of and hopes she can set a standard for more people of her descent to join the University down the road.
“I feel proud because I am able to represent my background and my culture,” Reddy told The Cougar in an interview via Zoom.
“People associate people of Indian descent with academics and being academically oriented, but being able to represent it in a different way, through sports, makes me feel very proud.”
Reddy began her tennis career at nine years old. She was inspired by her father, a UH alumnus, who played nationals in India, and her grandfather, who played the sport as well.
“It’s sort of a family thing … I picked it up and enjoyed it a lot, so it stuck with me until now,” Reddy said.
After a few things didn’t pan out the way Reddy expected, she decided to commit to UH last minute and play tennis for coach Helena Besovic and leave North Brunswick, New Jersey, which is where she grew up.
“Coming to Houston was definitely different,” Reddy said, “but it is such a diverse community that I felt welcomed here, I never felt out of place.”
Coach Besovic was a key component in recruiting Reddy to the University.
“(Reddy) was very professional,” Besovic told The Cougar. “We could tell that she really wanted to continue her tennis career. We connected with her, with her parents and really liked that tennis runs in her family. We were very excited to give her the opportunity to be on the team.”
Coach Besovic gave high praise to Reddy and how much she means to the team. The head coach has also enjoyed watching her grow since becoming a tennis player at UH.
“It means a lot (to have her on the team). She wanted to come and fit in on the team,” Besovic said. “What I liked with her is that slowly, with time, she was able to relax and show us her personality be herself … I am happy to see her improve.”
As for Reddy, she too had praise and gratitude for Besovic.
“I have a great relationship with my coach,” she said. “I am very grateful that she did give me the opportunity … she is always there for us. She’s also helped make this transition so much easier to come to Houston.”
Being the only student-athlete on campus with an Indian background, Reddy has been more in touch with her roots even through the pandemic.
“It’s tough during (COVID-19),” Reddy said. “I’ve been listening to a lot more Indian music and watching a lot more Indian movies. I’m trying to do the little things I can to further connect me with my culture and background.”
President Renu Khator, like Reddy, also has an Indian background, which is something that has not gone unnoticed by the student-athlete.
“Considering I’m the only Indian athlete … it is very inspiring and motivating,” Reddy said.
“(For) a woman and person of color to become the president of such a big university, it’s such a big accomplishment. Not only for me but also for other minorities and women… it encourages them to strive for the best and strive for better positions.”
After going 2-2 in doubles play, Reddy’s spring season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the uncertainty of how an upcoming season will look like, Reddy has “grown in her own ways” during this pandemic and has used this time off as an advantage to further improve her game.
As for Reddy’s lineage, she believes that there should be a different perspective towards the Indian culture and the general ideas behind it.
“I hope eventually, as the years go on, we’re going to see more Indian student-athletes coming up,” Reddy said. “It is very important for us to not only be academically successful but also athletically successful because that’ll bring a lot more value (to the culture).”