Sports Spotlight: Akula’s unique swing, hard work have made her one South Central’s best players ever

Two handed lefty hoping to build on state tennis appearance as a junior
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 5:47 PM EDT
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WINTERVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - South Central has one of the best girls tennis players the school has ever had. She’s taken her family’s favorite sport and turned into one of the state’s best players. We feature Pradnya Akula in this week’s Pepsi Sports Spotlight.

“My dad has been playing since he was really young and so has my uncle. So has my aunt so, and my mom started picking it up so it’s kind of a family thing now,” says South Central senior Pradnya Akula, “My dad started putting me and my brother in tennis at a really young age.”

The family sport, meaning since age 4, Pradnya Akula has always had a relative to play against.

“I usually play with my brother,” says Pradnya, “He’s really good also. So I play with him a lot.”

Now a senior at South Central high school. This star singles player has relished the chance to be part of a team.

“Playing here with a team behind you it’s a lot of fun,” says Pradnya, “It’s different so it’s good for me to go out of my comfort zone and play people I’ve never met before.”

“She’s been someone who has been encouraging to the other players,” says South Central head coach Sharon Surles, “She is a different player. She is different in her work ethic, in her ability, and in her talent.”

Akula’s swing is also different than most.

“I’m left handed and I play two hands on both sides,” Pradnya says, “It trips people up sometimes because you never see it a lot. I picked up more power because I’m double handed.”

Pradnya has gone to regionals every year of high school. Growing each season and learning after a freshman year loss to a player who is now at ECU.

“I remember having the conversation with her, hang in there. This is going to be you in a few years. You are going to be this player,” says Surles, “Now approaching her senior year, she is that player.”

Akula had an undefeated junior regular season and made her first trip to state.

“I played in 4A. It was really fun, it was super competitive and everyone was kind of on the same level,” Pradnya says, “So, it was a really fun atmosphere to play with.”

After another learning experience at state, South Central dropped down to 3A this year. Akula hopes to earn another state trip this fall and finish her senior year off with her best year yet.

“That I shouldn’t stress about it. I was really stressed,” says Pradnya, “And to know my coach has my back and so does my family I don’t have to worry as much as I did my junior year.”

She hopes to continue her career into college.

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