(June 20, 2023) She was just five-years-old when she walked into a local sports club with her father. He got her to try playing tennis, and after a few shots, he knew that she was a natural. That was sixteen years ago. Today, 21-year-old Natasha Subhash is making waves in the international tennis scene. The talented Indian American player, who is currently studying at the University of Virginia, was recently bestowed with the coveted 2023 ITA Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award. “From a tennis point of view, Natasha’s accomplishments are numerous,” the ITA officials said in an interview, adding, “She is a three-time ITA Singles All-American, earning the honor in each of her first three seasons.”
The tennis ace, who created history by becoming the youngest Indian-origin player to ever compete for the girls’ title in a Grand Slam 2017 event, has been honoured with a place on the 2023 Academic All-American women’s tennis team by College Sports Communicators. Interestingly, Natasha’s achievements are not just limited to the field, the young player recently won the 2023 Walter B. Doggett Accounting Award in recognition of distinguished academic achievement and outstanding scholarship in the discipline of accounting.
“I do the best I can to balance my passion for tennis with my desire to study hard and do well academically. It is challenging and does require many sacrifices, such as not being able to do the normal things that teenagers do- going to the mall, hanging out with friends, etc. However, my parents and I try to make time for just being around family and friends,” the Global Indian shared in a recent interview.
Born and raised in Fairfax, Virginia, USA, Natasha’s parents, Subhash Kongassery and Sulekha Subhash, moved to the United States from India in 1997. Their journey, rooted in their Indian heritage and dreams for a better life, has shaped Natasha’s path to becoming a tennis star. “I started playing tennis when I was four-and-a-half years old,” the tennis player shared, adding, “My dad put me in some classes at the local club and I just started from there. At first, it was just for fun, but after that, I started loving it a lot and played a few matches representing first the club, and later my school.”
However, playing tennis wasn’t her only passion growing up. The youngster volunteered in as many events to serve the community. “My philosophy has always been to do whatever I can to help others,” Natasha shared, “I have always loved to work with children and those with special needs, and I think the love for this came from my mom who is a middle school special education teacher.”
Sharing an incident from her childhood, the tennis player said, “When I was growing up, the tennis academy I trained at participated in a program called Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (KEEN) where once a month, children with physical and developmental disabilities would come to the academy and we’d run a tennis clinic with them. It was always so rewarding to see the joy on their faces as they participated in an activity that they might’ve thought to be impossible.”
The court magician
After winning several titles, the tennis player got a wild card entry in the 2015 US Open and ended the season ranking number 1 in the Under-14 and Under-16 categories in the US. But her journey was far from easy. After sustaining an injury in the first set while trailing 2-3, the player experienced intense pain, marking a challenging moment in the match. Focussing on just finishing the match, the youngster kept playing and despite facing a formidable 4-0 and 5-2 deficit in the second set, she emerged triumphant.
“It was unbelievable. I had not expected a singles wild card although I had done extremely well in the singles and doubles in 2015,” the youngster shared after claiming the cup, “I learned to never give up from that tournament. If I had not held on to that belief, I would have missed out on the amazing experience of playing in the main draw.” In 2017, Natasha reached the semifinals of the Australian Open Junior along with Caty McNally.
The tennis player enrolled at the University of Virginia, and also started tutoring at the Madison House. A commerce major, Natasha has been working with Madison House’s Athletes Committed to Education (ACE) programme volunteering as a tutor working with elementary school students. The youngster made history as a trailblazer in academic achievements within Virginia’s sports landscape. She secured the distinction of being the first player in the state’s history to receive CoSIDA Academic All-District honors in the at-large category. Building on this remarkable success, the tennis player continued to break barriers by becoming the inaugural player in her programme’s history to be elected as a CoSIDA Academic All-American.
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In addition to her scholarly achievements, Natasha has been twice honored as UVA’s Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year, an accolade that speaks volumes about her dedication to both her studies and her sport. The youngster, who is a big Federer fan, wishes to not only win accolades on the tennis field but also academically. “My goal is to keep improving and be the best that I can be. I am working hard towards that,” she said.