Abhi Makes Racket at PSU

With tennis season hitting the home stretch, the Vanguard caught up with
Abhinav Mishra, a senior leader on the Portland State tennis team. I met with Mishra as he slid out of the training room of the Stott Center after practice last Thursday evening.

Mishra encompasses the tennis “look”: doe-eyed, wavy jet-black mane tamed with a bright red sweat-soaked headband. He’s page 27 ripped out of Tennis magazine. He was born in 1991 and is a civil engineering major about to hit his prime.

Since joining the tennis team as a walk-on in 2011, Mishra made an immediate impression, winning the Team Impact Player award and being chosen for the All-Academic Team. He has crushed it as a student athlete. In doubles, Mishra and his partner Alec Marx have paired almost flawlessly—losing only once since 2012.

Mishra’s background paints an interesting picture. He came to Portland from Gwailor, a city south of Delhi, India. Gwalior is located in Madhya Pradesh, a state in central India with around 75 million inhabitants, making it the sixth largest state in the country of over a billion. This was the meat of the story and where we started our interview.

Jake Estes:How does tennis in the United States differ from tennis in India?
Abhinav Mishra: In India we have talent, not the facilities. We can’t afford club memberships, balls and rackets. We are equal in talent but far behind in facilities. There are no high school tennis teams and no physical trainers. You practice on your own.
JE: Tell me about your transition here—were you recruited to play tennis?
AM: PSU is the best place to study transportation engineering. I had some family here, but I didn’t even know they had a tennis team.
Mishra had received attention as a recreational tennis club member and was offered an opportunity to try out as a walk-on. He beat every member of the team. His fairytale, Rudy-esque story was inspiring.
JE: What is the hardest thing about transitioning to life in Oregon? How did you adjust?
AM: It rains a lot and being away from your family, leaving family—it’s painful. It’s hard if your dad needs you but you’re 7,000 miles away. But my teammates are my best friends. Our team is pretty funny, we pick on each other but have fun. They are helpful on the court and off the court.
During his time in the U.S. Mishra has touched down in 21 states and taken a swim in Lake Shasta. He juggles the life of a student athlete with poise, saving time to produce and compose Hindi pop music and rehearse breakdancing sets for his performance coming up in May at Smith Memorial Student Union. He has a girlfriend here, loves to ride the MAX and he plans to return to India as soon as he’s graduated—at least to visit before he jumps into a career.
JE: What don’t you miss about India?
AM: The traffic. I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with the driving…and the heat. It gets up to 120 degrees. And the inefficiencies, like trying to pay the electric bill, you stand in line for days.
JE: Highlight of your tennis career at PSU?
AM: When I saved three match points against Northern Arizona, or last year at the end of the season when my partner [Marx] and I accomplished our goal of being undefeated.

Mishra is a humble guy—a breakdancing, tri-lingual, award-winning scholar and athlete. Tune in and watch Mishra and the Vikings take on Idaho State at Club Green Meadows on April 19 at 6 p.m.