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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Interview with Ayra Shaikh: LEC Rookie of the Week

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Dom Ferreira
A portrait of Ayra Shaikh. Photo by Dom Ferreira / Photography Editor

On Sept. 12, while President Joseph Biden was visiting the JFK Library next door, the Little East Conference released their Athletes of the Week. UMass Boston was pleased to receive the news that first year, Ayra Shaikh, had received the Rookie of the Week from the LEC for her debut performance against Western Connecticut State University on Sept. 10. Mass Media had the delight of sitting down with Shaikh to ask her a couple of questions about tennis, her journey in the sport and her reaction to the recognition.
Question: What is your major, your favorite class so far and your favorite part of campus?
Answer: I am an international relations major. My favorite class so far, I would say, is my first-year seminar, “Food Matters.” My favorite part of campus is the Integrated Sciences Complex because I went there for the first time today!
Q: How did you start playing and what is your story with tennis?
A: I started playing at the age of four, along with my dad and my sister. We used to practice frequently, most days, including weekends. We sometimes had practice at three in the morning, or other days in the evening until ten at night. Through the years, I also participated in clinics and USTA matches. Growing up, I handled tennis and school at the same time, focusing mainly on tennis. In high school, I played during my freshman and sophomore year. It was a good experience for me. I learned how to work as a team, since previously I mainly played individually. It also helped me with college tennis, teaching me how to get along with a group of teammates. At the beginning, my family was a big influence in my interest in the sport. Recently, my perception and intensity changed. UMass Boston gave me the opportunity to play in a more friendly and relaxed way.
Q: What parts of playing tennis and the Umass Boston team do you really enjoy?
A: I really like playing with my teammates and getting tips from my coach. His experience helps us know what to work on and how to work on it. In the game itself, when I hit winners in a match it is very satisfying. On the other hand, during the game against Western Connecticut State I played doubles with my teammate Meagan Carney. It was really fun seeing her hit winners; or when I did, it was cool to have the chance of doing a racquet tap.
Q:  Interesting—how is playing doubles different from singles?
A: Throughout my career, I mainly played singles, then each side only has one chance to come in contact with the ball, thus I tend to rely more on my instincts. In doubles, each side can contact the ball twice, so you can do different shots, like volleying, which is getting the ball from the air, or overheads.  It’s a lot of teamwork, that’s what I like about doubles. When the other person scores, you feel as if it was your own point, and vice versa. As well, it is a style that allows you to play even if you get older.
Q: This past weekend was the U.S. Open finals, were you able to see any of them, and if so what did you think?
A: We actually watched the U.S. Open women’s final on our game back from WestConn! They both played really well. Iga Swiatek, the champion, struck me as very composed. She didn’t let her emotions get the best of her, and that is key in tennis.
Q: What other attributes do you find key in a tennis player?
A: Consistency is very important. Being consistent on the court is better than having strength. A person with strength can hit many winners in a row, but that doesn’t always work. Consistent players tend to be able to get your ball back, regardless of how hard you may hit. This may also mean points take longer to score, making games themselves longer. A good way to fight strength players is by testing their endurance. If they have a lot of power, they must have the stamina to back it up. Otherwise, they can’t last long in the court.
Q: What do you think is the main lesson tennis gives its players?
A: I actually had never been asked that before! One attribute that most tennis players have is depending on yourself and being held accountable for their actions. The place that the ball reaches after I hit it is something I caused, you can’t blame anybody else for that.
Q: You received the Rookie of the Week; what was your reaction to getting the news on Monday, and what does this recognition mean to you?
A: I was not expecting that this early in the season, not going to lie. I’ve only played one match. It was very shocking! Besides, there are plenty of other athletes who could have gotten it. I feel very thankful for being chosen by the conference.

About the Contributors
Valentina Valderrama Perez, Features Writer
Dom Ferreira, Photo Editor