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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Adhithya Ganesan first stepped on campus in January; the freshman is already cracking jokes and succeeding on the court

Winning his first five singles matches and first four doubles matches, Ganesan has firmly established himself on Florida’s team

Florida freshman Adhithya Ganesan (left) rips a backhand with sophomore Tanapatt Nirundorn (right) in the Gators’ 7-0 win against The Citadel on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.
Florida freshman Adhithya Ganesan (left) rips a backhand with sophomore Tanapatt Nirundorn (right) in the Gators’ 7-0 win against The Citadel on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

In the Gators men’s tennis dual against the University of North Florida Jan. 19, the match to clinch the doubles point was tied at 6-6. The score in the tiebreaker was 5-4 in favor of Florida freshman Adhithya Ganesan and sophomore Tanapatt Nirundorn. 

It was only the duo’s second time playing together, and Nirundorn hadn’t made a return in the last four games. 

He was feeling the nerves and Ganesan noticed it. So, the freshman walked up to Nirundorn before it was his turn to return and said, “Bro, if you really think about it, it ain’t that deep.” 

Ganesan had him on the verge of tears right before the biggest point in the match. Nirundorn burst out laughing and hit a return winner on the next point, helping them clinch the crucial doubles point for the Gators. 

It’s rare to see a freshman composed and cracking jokes with the match on the line. Though, Ganesan has blossomed into a reliable performer. 

“He’s opened up a lot,” head coach Adam Steinberg said. “I think he really enjoys playing for Florida. He’s a pretty quiet guy, but since he’s been here in early January, we’ve seen for sure different sides of Adhithya.” 

Leading into the 2024 Spring season for the Florida Gators men’s tennis team, Steinberg had just six players on his roster. In order to fill the roster, Steinberg signed four freshmen at the start of the season. 

Ganesan is one of those four freshmen. He had proven to be one of the top players in his class. According to Tennis Recruiting Network, he ranked No. 17 as a recruit in the class of 2023, and he was titled the No. 1 ranked player in Maryland. 

Ganesan first picked up a tennis racket when he was just 4 years old, but he didn’t know until he was 12 that tennis could be a foreseeable future. 

“When I improved my ranking in the 12s and 14s, I was one of the better players in my age group at the time and kind of just kept that same level and kept progressing throughout the years,” Ganesan said. 

Throughout his junior tennis career, Ganesan achieved a career-high International Tennis Federation Junior ranking of No. 24 in the world. He has won 10 ITF Juniors titles and most recently made his Grand Slam main draw debut in the 2023 U.S. Open Tennis Championships. 

Ganesan attributes his confidence and success to his junior tennis career and how it developed him as a tennis player.

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“The last, I’d say, year and a half, I've traveled to probably over 15 countries playing internationally,” Ganesan said. “A lot of it, I traveled by myself, so I was able to just gain a lot of experience playing different players, in different conditions and just learning new things.”

Ganesan was initially committed to Cornell University until mid-October 2023. He decommitted from Cornell after trips to play in the U.S. Open and Asia for six weeks. After a strong fall season, Ganesan said he felt he needed a different tennis program to settle into. 

And that program was UF.

“The tennis program is a lot better here,” he said. “The weather is nicer, it’s closer to a lot of the tournaments and the conference is a lot better. I had a pretty good last summer and September and October, so I was going to focus more on trying to become a professional tennis player.”

Steinberg had been following Ganesan as a recruit since his time at Michigan, and when Ganesan decommitted from Cornell, Steinberg didn’t hesitate to recruit the talented freshman. 

“I knew of him when I was at the University of Michigan, tried to recruit him then a little bit, so I had seen him play,” Steinberg said. “We got in the mix pretty quickly there in the fall and felt like, you know, he was a guy that really could make a great impact on our program. He is a class act, a great guy and a very good student. He covered all the bases for us and we went hard to get him and we’re happy he's here.”

Ganesan started the spring season playing line three for the Gators. After being on campus for less than two months, he has played his way into the top spot in the singles lineup. 

A huge part of that jump was his early success in the season, winning his first five singles matches. 

“This is my first semester, so playing college tennis is different than playing juniors when you're playing for yourself,” Ganesan said. “Playing with a group of guys, for a team, being able to win gave me a lot of confidence.”

While watching Ganesan compete, his teammates and fans may be cheering, but nobody is saying his name. Instead, cheers of “Come on, Billy” and “Let's go, Billy” ring out. 

“Billy” is a nickname that Ganesan coined for himself when he met former Gator and national champion Ben Shelton. 

“The first time I met him, he asked me what my name was, and I said Billy as a joke,” Ganesan said. “Then everyone, as a joke that week, was calling me Billy, and then it just kind of stuck. Now everyone calls me Billy.”

“Billy” also plays doubles for the Gators with sophomore Tanapatt Nirundorn. The duo is 6-1 on the season and is currently ranked No. 41 in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association doubles rankings. 

Nirundorn attributes their chemistry to their playstyles and different personalities on the court. 

“Billy is a little more on the quiet side when you first meet him, but his personality shows once you get used to him and get closer with him,” Nirundorn said. 

They work as a team because they know each other's games so well, it's as if they are connected on the court, he added.

College tennis is all about intensity, momentum and energy. Matches, players, fans and coaches are energized after each point. 

However, Ganesan said he’s more content and composed on the court but needs to improve his energy because it helps his team and his partner. 

With the start of the demanding SEC season ahead, Ganesan and the Gators will have to play six top-25 teams. With the Gators' next match March 1 against No. 12 Texas A&M, Florida will have had much-needed rest before their season picks back up for conference play.

“I gotta make sure to stay healthy and just keep improving, and hopefully we keep winning more matches,” Ganesan said. 

Contact Chandler Hawkes at Follow him on X @HawkesChandler.

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