#2 on the Court, #1 in our Hearts: Tarini Panidepu Takes on the World of Tennis

Co-captain of the girls varsity tennis team, junior Tarini Panidepu, hopes to bring the girls varsity tennis team to states.


Smrithi Balakumar

Junior Tarini Panidepu waits for her opponent to serve the ball. Panidepu has improved greatly over the course of the season. “I was definitely able to get my first serve percentage up,” Panidepu said.

Starting her tennis career at the ripe age of four, junior Tarini Panidepu has grown to be quite the talented tennis player. She has played for the Rock Ridge team since her freshman year, and was made a co-captain this year. “I feel really honored, because usually not a lot of juniors are captains of sports teams,” Panidepu said. 

Panidepu is joined by junior Rachel Adams as the other captain, and they work together to manage the team. “Obviously, I can’t do it without Rachel,” Panidepu said. “I think that we can both lead the team to a better place and we both have really strong leadership qualities that I’m really happy to share with everybody.” 

Panidepu usually plays doubles with junior Sannidhi Sangisetti. They have grown up playing tennis together and have been waiting a long time to play doubles with each other. In the game against Heritage, she played her doubles with freshman Mrudu Annavarapu. “[Panidepu is] really stable and dependable and she really holds our team together,” Annavarapu said. “She does good while bringing everyone together and making sure we stay on top of everything. You can always trust her and depend on her for anything.” 

The captains of the team are chosen by the coach. “In order to lead, you have to be able to follow,” Phoenix varsity girls tennis team coach Gordon Neal said. “[Panidepu] always was a team person. She followed our last captain, Anya Ambarish, pretty well, so I thought Tarini would be a good selection for the program.”

Junior Martchia Azer sees Panidepu as a good leader. “She’s responsible for everything, like telling us what to do and if we finish something we move on to the next thing until we finish practice or the game,” Azer said. “She’s like ‘keep it up guys we will win next time. We can practice more and we’ll probably win it next time.’”

Neal believes that Panidepu leads the team very well as a co-captain. “Tarini is an excellent leader, she leads by example, she always has a great attitude and she always brings a positive work ethic to practices and to matches.”

Playing for 13 years, Panidepu has improved gradually year by year. “She’s gotten better and that’s because of the work she puts in during [the] off-season,” Neal said. 

Annavarapu agreed that Panidepu is an overall skilled player. “She doesn’t really have any weaknesses while playing which is also really good,” Annavarapu said. “She’s confident in her abilities as a player and as a teammate, she’s really good at supporting other people.”

Panidepu excels at motivating her teammates. “I’ve been telling all the freshmen, even the sophomores, ‘hey it’s okay this, this, and this happened,’” Panidepu said. “What you do is you ignore this and you go on and play your game.”

The girls tennis team are Dulles District Tournament Champions, and will compete at Regionals the week of May 22.