In the preliminary round of the 2014 ITF Junior Qualifying Tournament, a breeze blows softly on a cool spring day in Chang Mai. The pounding of tennis balls against the clay fills the ears of athletes and fans.
Saby Sahoo, a TCU tennis commit, stands on the court fatigued and facing a three-game deficit against his higher seeded British competitor.
“I had just gotten the flu the week prior to traveling to Thailand,” Sahoo said. “The doctor cleared me to play, but I didn’t feel like I was physically prepared to compete.”
Mandakini Sahoo, Saby’s mother, said that she opposed her son’s decision to travel to Thailand to play in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournament.
The six hours of travel from Saby Sahoo’s hometown of New Delhi, India to Thailand taxed the already drained tennis player’s body.
His opponent began the fourth game of the match with a powerful right-handed serve that blew past the outstretched right arm of Saby Sahoo. In order to attack the serve with his forehand, Sahoo adjusted on the second serve by playing to the far-left side of the court.
The second serve arrived rapidly to Sahoo’s backhand, requiring him to quickly twist his left knee to return the serve. Upon twisting, a popping sound echoed throughout the court.
Sahoo was unaffected by the popping of his left knee and he continued toward the opposite side of the court to return the third service of the game, down 30-0.
Sahoo attacked his opponent’s next serve with force. After a 20-second volley, Sahoo had earned his first point of the game. On his way to mount a comeback, Sahoo’s adrenaline regressed and the pain in his left knee became evident.
The escalation of pain forced Sahoo to request a medical timeout. The tournament’s doctor approached and after evaluation of the left knee, he suggested that Sahoo concede the match and receive an MRI.
“As I was walking off the clay courts, I was fearing the worst,” Sahoo said.
Sahoo sat at the airport the following day wondering if his tennis career had just ended. He did anything he could to take his mind away from the uncertain future.
The arrival home couldn’t come fast enough for the future Horned Frog. The following day began early at the doctor’s office with an MRI on his left knee.
“I was very upset when I heard the news of his knee injury and was just wishing him to come back as soon as possible,” his mother said. “I wanted Saby to get his MRI at the earliest.”
The following day was filled with the same early morning doctor’s office visit, but this visit would determine Sahoo’s future. The doctor wasted no time delivering the diagnosis: Sahoo had suffered a complete tear of his left ACL.
Sahoo’s head dropped to the floor and he wondered what was to come of his life now that he had sustained an injury that would take him away from the game he had grown to love.
“I had been training for at least four hours a day for tennis, and after hearing the news, I just didn’t know how my life was going to change,” Sahoo said.
The surgery was successfully completed six days later. The doctors told the Sahoo family that the surgery had been a success and Sahoo had a chance at a full recovery.
Sahoo came out of surgery with a positive mindset.
“I was already committed to TCU, and I wasn’t ready to give up on tennis,” Sahoo said.
The positive mindset quickly deteriorated after six-straight weeks spent in his full-sized bed.
“I went from training every day to spending 90 percent of my time laying in my bed,” Sahoo said. “I just kept thinking that I shouldn’t be here. I didn’t deserve this.”
“I had to be a positive figure around him, and I encouraged him to prepare for college entrance exams,” Bishner Sahoo said.
Two months after the surgery, Saby finally came to the realization that his tennis career was over and had to inform TCU’s tennis coaches that he would no longer be playing for them.
“I didn’t see what the point of rehab was anymore,” Sahoo said. “There was no goal for me to reach. I wasn’t going to TCU anymore.”
Sahoo stuck with the rehab thanks to the encouragement of his parents.
“The next five months didn’t really feel important, but they were crucial in allowing me to maintain my physical and mental wellbeing,” Sahoo said.
Day-in and day-out, for hours on end, Sahoo’s life was consumed by his studies. The whole month of August saw Sahoo’s head deeply entrenched in SAT preparation books.
“My greatest focus was my vocabulary,” Sahoo said. “English is my third language, so my greatest struggle was trying to comprehend everything that the SAT was asking of me.”
September 2014 marked Sahoo’s most important academic endeavor to date: the day he took the SAT.
“I came into the facility nervous, but once I completed the examination, I felt good,” Sahoo said. “I knew my studying had prepared me to do well.”
The next two weeks were torture for Sahoo as he waited for the news on his SAT score.
A manila envelope finally slid through the mail slot of Sahoo’s home. The contents inside determined his future. Sahoo clutched the parcel tightly and took it to his room. He slowly sat on his bed and took a deep breath as he removed the contents of the letter. Sahoo unfolded the paper to reveal his score: 2180.
Sahoo was immediately overcome with joy, finally knowing that he would get to go to the school he had been admiring since he was young.
The score of 2180 not only gave Saby Sahoo admittance into TCU, but it also allowed him to come to the University on a full academic scholarship.
“Now, looking back at it, we are glad to say that he was able to make the best out of his situation,” Sahoo’s father said. “The injury definitely helped him to focus more on academics.”
Sahoo will graduate at the end of the spring semester with a degree in computer science and he will return in the fall to finish his second degree in finance.