Wingspan: When did you start tennis?
Rao: “I started tennis when I was 3 years old.”
Wingspan: Who encouraged you to start tennis?
Rao: “My father encouraged me to start playing tennis. He has a deep passion for the sport and wanted me to experience the same things he had.”
Wingspan: What is the hardest part about tennis?
Rao: “The hardest part about tennis is the mental aspect. It’s extremely important to be balanced and have a constant hunger to win without losing yourself to the negativity that comes with fighting alone.”
Wingspan: What’s your favorite part about tennis?
Rao: “Winning, nothing compares to putting in the hard work and focused time and watching it pay off in competition. My coach often makes the analogy: ‘joking and messing around is fun, but winning brings true happiness.’”
Wingspan: Who is your biggest role model?
Rao: “It constantly changes. It depends on whose story I have heard recently. I usually try to take the best lessons I can from every individual.”
Wingspan: What is one thing people think about tennis that isn’t actually true?
Rao: “Tennis is a rich man’s sport. The game is dominated by Eastern Europeans who have come from the toughest conditions experienced by people. The current world #1, Novak Djokovic, lived through the bombing of his home town (Belgrade, Serbia) as a child before he had the opportunity to travel outside his country to train (alone at 14) at an academy in Germany.”
Wingspan: Do you have any superstitions?
Rao: “No, sometimes I like to recreate the environments I was in during my best tournaments (but it is nearly always different).”
Wingspan: Do you have a pre game routine?
Rao: “I jog, stretch, warm up (light hitting), visualize and meditate — usually keep away from others 30 minutes before my match.”
Wingspan: What or who motivates you?
Rao: “The desire to beat my competition motivates me. It has been the same 4 guys at the top of the state tennis for the last 3 years. I am one of the 4, and everyday I work with the purpose of finding ways to be better than the other 3.”
Wingspan: Why do you like tennis?
Rao: “I’m always happy on the tennis court. There’s no place I would rather be.”