Tamil-American tennis fan Senthan Mahendrarasa drove seven hours Saturday to spend just 48-hours in Toronto for the Rogers Cup. So far, he says it’s been worth every minute.
Given his love for the tournament and the #WeTheNorth craze that went global with the City’s NBA basketball success, the thirty-year-old from Columbus, Ohio felt it was an easy decision.
“Actually since the Raptors won the championship, everybody’s been talking about Toronto,” he said. “The fact that Toronto’s trending was definitely a part of my decision. I thought why not come to watch the Rogers Cup and also get to experience the City at the same time.”
Mahendrarasa’s relationship to tennis runs much deeper than the heart shaped tennis ball on the t-shirt he’s been sporting while walking the grounds on Sunday afternoon. He began playing in the sixth grade when his uncle introduced him to the sport and developed his skills playing for his school teams.
He went on to play for the club team at his alma mater, Ohio State University where we went 19 and 2 and made it to the districts in his senior year.
“I actually never took lessons,” said Mahendrarasa who now works as a contact specialist. I was pretty much self taught from YouTube, playing with advanced players and whatever else I could to improve my skills.”
The son of American immigrants from South Asia, Mahendrarasa says the sheer fun of tennis and the accessibility to most communities is a big part of what drew him to the sport.
His love for the sport has also been about its increasing diversity.
“I grew up in an affluent community with a lot of Indian, Chinese and African-American families and we all played tennis together,” he said. “I certainly did see a lot of diversity in tennis growing up. I think the Williams sisters have been a big part of that.”
While here he’s been soaking up all the on-court action he can get and although he won’t be around for most of the main draw, he says the highlight of his Rogers Cup experience came Sunday morning on Centre Court.
“I sat three or four rows behind Serena Williams during her practice session,” said Mahendrarasa. “I loved watching her hit the ball. It was amazing. I stayed for the whole thing.”
These days his role competing in the sport is about enjoying the game and giving back. He recently won a cancer fundraiser tournament back home and is gearing up for another event in Columbus.
But for now, he is relishing in the hours he has left at the tournament and enjoying the City as much as possible.
“Rogers cup is my main focus of course but there are other things I want to do while I’m here as well,” said Mahendrarada who heads home Monday night. “So far this has been a nice little vacation.”