Shalini Tallamraju earned first team all-state recognition and won 19 of 25 matches as a freshman last season for Munster.
While all six losses came at the hands of state-ranked opponents, the talented Tallamraju appears poised to be even better this season.
“I’ve really worked hard on all phases of my game, especially my attitude,” she said. “I was told by one of my coaches my game could raise three notches if I let go of my attitude.”
Before anyone misunderstands, Tallamraju’s attitude and court demeanor will never be confused with that of legendary men’s tennis hothead John McEnroe.
“My frustration would build with every point I’d lose because I was getting more and more upset,” Tallamraju said. “I think last year it was because I had a lack of confidence in my game.
“I have more confidence now. I had to get rid of (the attitude). I’ve learned to talk positively to myself now instead of becoming so frustrated.”
While Tallamraju’s maturity has definitely helped her combat that, she’s also learned something important from following Rafael Nadal.
“I watch Nadal a lot, and that’s what he does,” she said. “He’s probably the calmest player on tour, along with Roger Federer. On the changeover, Nadal always runs back and gets it together. He bounces on his feet and is ready to play. He conveys a positive attitude. He doesn’t let his opponent see any frustration. It’s something I’m doing now.
“I have certain goals I want to attain, so I wanted to get rid of the attitude and be more positive with myself. A bad attitude is not going to help, only hurt me.”
Tallamraju has put extra work to reach her goal of making it to state. Last year, she lost in the team tournament at the Culver Academies Semistate to Carmel’s Lauren Lemonds, who finished unbeaten and won singles and team state titles.
“Shalini’s put in a tremendous amount of court time through lessons, matches and (USTA) tournaments,” Munster coach Patrick Spohr said. “She’s also been working a lot on her fitness level and turning that into one of her strengths.
“The amount of time she’s spent improving her game is going to show on the court, and it’s going to make her tough to beat this year.”
Tallamraju said she’s also worked hard trying to add different shots to her game.
“I’ve developed my drop shot more, used my slice a lot more, and improved my volley as well as my serve,” she said. “My serve is probably 10 times better. I’ve been working a lot harder in practice — actually coming in with a goal of improving some aspect of my game.”
The extra work Tallamraju put in is paying off.
Her national ranking has improved from 254 to 156, according to tennisrecruiting.net. Previously a three-star player, she’s now a four-star recruit, ranked No. 23 in the Great Lakes Region and No. 4 in Indiana.
“I’m shooting for the top 100 by the end of the season,” said Tallamraju, who has a 4.17 GPA in all honors courses and plans to pursue a medical career like her mother Anju, who’s a family physician.
Not to be denied, Tallamraju has taken her physicality to the next level as well.
“Shalini is in the best shape she’s ever been in,” Spohr said. “She can play at a higher level for a longer period of time. She’s grown and gained muscle, which has helped her strokes become even more powerful.
“With her speed and increased strength, she’s going to be an unstoppable force within the Region.”
John O’Malley is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.