Yanni Kouiroukidis, Contributing Writer
Shivani Manjanna is the type of person to easily adjust to any situation. And as a tennis player, she says it’s all about the mental process.
Manjanna is from Bangalore, India, which is more than 8,500 miles from Richmond. When she left home and moved to the United States, she looked forward to playing in bigger tournaments.
“For me it came down to how I could plan my future better,” Manjanna said. “Back in India, apart from COVID and everything, we don’t really have a lot of tournaments. We need to be able to travel and financially, that’s also not sustainable.”
From leaving India to playing tennis at the University of Louisiana Monroe before transferring to VCU, Manjanna has stayed focused.
“In tennis, you can’t really go ahead with a game plan before because you don’t know how your opponents play,” Manjanna said. “You kind of have to figure out strengths and weaknesses, so I think I’m good at reading my opponent better and quicker.”
Manjanna’s ultimate goal is to use her time at VCU to help her get the experience she needs to go professional, she said. She looks up to her brother, who has been her coach since she was 15 years old.
“My biggest influence I would say is my brother,” Manjanna said. “He used to play before, and he is sort of the reason why I got into tennis at a young age.”
Manjanna competed for one season at the University of Louisiana Monroe. Her transfer to VCU was an easy transition, she said.
“Here, the resources are definitely better,” Manjanna said. “The training facilities here are much better well equipped, and if you’re willing to work hard, there is always someone there to help you out.”
Manjanna currently holds a 5-4 record for her singles matches and a 4-3 record with her doubles partner, Alessia Ciuca. Ciuca, a freshman from Timisoara, Romania, welcomed the opportunity to play with Manjanna to learn from an upperclassman.
“She is a really calm person and she has a lot of patience,” Ciuca said. “Every time we play doubles together, she sees that I’m nervous and she comes over to me and calms me down.”
That one-to-one interaction between players is something that has been an advantage to both Ciuca and Manjanna while at VCU. With a squad of only eight girls, players are more likely to get more attention during practices and build closer relationships with coaches and teammates.
Vivian Segnini is in her first year leading the Rams. As a former player herself, she was the top-ranked professional player in Brazil in both 2008 and 2011. Segnini praised Manjanna as a leader and a key member of the team.
“She’s a very disciplined athlete,” Segnini said. “She does everything right on the court. … I know that she’s doing her best in everything she does.”
Despite the uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Manjanna has said she’s kept a cool head and looks to keep going with gratitude to her situation.
“We’re really fortunate at VCU to play so many matches this year,” Manjanna said. “I’ve heard other teams’ seasons have been canceled, so I’m really glad we are able to compete again. I think that just pushes us to keep working hard.”
The Rams will face Duquesne this Saturday at noon at the Thalhimer Tennis Center.