Thursday, July 18, 2024

Future Harvard tennis player Anna-Raphaëlle Serghi picked the right sport at age 11

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By Michael Vavaroutsos

At six-and-a-half years old, Anna-Raphaëlle Serghi’s parents enrolled her in every sport imaginable, from soccer, to swimming, to tennis, and many in between. Then when she was 11, she was faced with a very tough decision: choosing her main sport.

Little did she know that the decision to commit to only playing tennis would launch her on the path to studying medicine and playing in the NCAA for the Harvard University Crimson.

“I remember when I was making that decision, my parents just said that I excelled in tennis, so I chose tennis,” recalls Serghi, whose tennis trek includes visits to Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Panama for International Tennis Federation tournaments, plus many more stops in Canada and the U.S.

She got her start at the former Ottawa Athletic Club, and she’s also always played at the Carleton Tennis Centre, where she’s been coached for almost eight years by Nick Mook Sang.

“He has been the biggest person in my journey,” signals Serghi, noting she’s reached heights she’d never thought were possible, including a “huge breakout year” in 2022 when she won both the Canadian under-16 and U18 national titles to become the third player ever to turn that trick.

The triumphs came on the heels of a fairly big dip in her level of play during the pandemic.

“I believe it was all part of the journey in the end,” indicates Serghi, who won a May ITF junior doubles tournament alongside Yale University-bound Leena Friedman of Brooklyn, NY in San Jose, Costa Rica.

“Even if one day you come out and one shot’s not feeling good, you’re there trying to perfect that skill,” Serghi adds. “I also think losing is a big motivation factor for me too because I always want to get back out there and see what I could do better the next time I step back on the court.”

The Glebe Collegiate Institute senior says that she tries to model her game after some of the best players in the world, including Iga Świątek, Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal.

“Rafael Nadal has been a huge inspiration for me since I was little,” notes Serghi, who goes by the nickname “Raph” herself. “I really love his fighting spirit.”

Serghi first met Harvard’s assistant tennis coach at a tournament in Florida, and once she made her official visit to the Ivy League school in Cambridge, MA, she knew right away that that’s where she wanted to play and study.

“I was absolutely amazed by the school and by everything there,” recounts Serghi, who verbally committed to Crimson after her visit and then successfully completed tests, essays and interviews during the extensive application process.

Anna-Raphaëlle Serghi. File photo

“I chose Harvard because of its balance between academics and athletics,” she adds. “Some of these huge tennis and sports schools, they’re really incredible on the athletic side, but I was not sure if I had much time for academics, so I really liked the balance.”

Though she won’t choose a major in her first year, Serghi has her eye on studying neuroscience and potentially going to medical school once she finishes her undergraduate degree.

Before then, she plans to play in many tournaments this summer to get ready for her season with the Crimson, which begins in August.

“I think it’ll be a really fun experience since tennis is an individual sport and college tennis allows you to play for a team. There are great girls and great coaches at Harvard, so I’m really excited,” highlights Serghi, who earned a bronze medal with Team Ontario at the 2022 Canada Summer Games and represented Canada at the 2022 Junior World Cup.

“I want to do the best I can and help my team tennis-wise, while also building great relationships there,” she adds. “Living alone will really allow me to become an independent individual and become the best person I can be.”

Serghi says she feels exceptionally grateful for the opportunities she’s had, and for the guidance she’s received from her parents, Aurel and Laura, right back to when they helped her choose tennis as her main pursuit.

“They’ve helped me so much throughout this whole process,” Serghi underlines. “I’ve got such a great support system with my coaches, friends and family, and without them, it wouldn’t have been possible. They’re a crucial part of my future too.”

Read More of our 2024 High School Best Series, presented by Louis-Riel Sports-Études, as we tip our caps to top local student-athletes at: OttawaSportsPages.ca/Ottawa-High-School-Best-2024

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