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Former Kat tennis star wins pro event – Sam Houston



Former Kat tennis star wins pro event – Sam Houston

Former Sam Houston standout Sahaja Yamalapalli earned another win on the ITF World Tour at the USTA Southern California, recently.
Top-seeded Yamalapalli defeated No. 3 seed and former Michigan Wolverine Amy Zhu 6-4, 7-6 (4) to win her fourth career singles title. The 23-year-old from India posted five straight-set wins over players with college tennis ties at the Jack Kramer Club stop on the SoCal Pro Series.
Following her victory. Yamalapalli looked back to those who have helped her most on her tennis journey. She told Steven Pratt with UTSA Southern California she was indebted to her coaches at Sam Houston, where she was a decorated college player and the first in school’s history to be named the Southland Conference Player and Student-Athlete of the Year honors twice.
Currently ranked No. 323 in the WTA world rankings, Yamalapalli always had the dream to play college tennis in America, but coaches weren’t lined up to offer her a spot on their rosters.
“I wasn’t a very good junior,” Yamalapalli said in a release. “I had a huge transformation in college. I’ve always had the passion to learn. I love to learn. I happened to be in the right place with the right coaches. They wanted to teach, and I wanted to learn. And I worked hard, and it just worked out.”
Yamalapalli said she is thankful for idols she had growing up — specifically Sania Mirza — the former world No. 1 doubles player who won six Grand Slams before retiring in February of 2023. Both come from the same region near where Yamalapalli was raised in Hyderabad, India.
“She broke all the barriers in India,” Yamalapalli said of Mirza, who is one of only two Indian women to win a WTA Tour title, and the only one to be ranked within the top 100 in singles. “Back in those days and being a woman it was very unusual for players to make it to the top of the international level. She made it possible for players like me.”
Yamalapalli is the most decorated player in Sam Houston history. The two-time Southland Conference Player and Student-Athlete of the Year went 18-0 in dual match play, not dropping a single set at No. 1 singles in leading the Bearkats to their first Division I conference championship in 2021.
She was named the ITA Texas Region’s Most Improved Senior of the Year and finished the season ranked No. 18 in the ITA Texas Region. She also became the first Bearkat to ever crack the ITA/NCAA national rankings and finished the season ranked No. 127 but reached as high as No. 109 during the spring of 2021.

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