COLUMBIA — Before a match, the Hickman boys tennis players warm up by practicing their serves and hitting balls over the net to teammates.
Junior Samuel Pottipadu takes part in normal pre-match routine until he has to take one extra test. He pricks his finger to make sure his blood sugar isn’t too high or too low.
Pottipadu was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was six years old. If his blood sugar is too high, he begins to feel hot and sweats. When it’s too low, he feels dizzy and weak, and he begins to shake.
Pottipadu has successfully balanced his blood sugar in the first week of the season. When the match begins his mind is on the game, and he isn’t distracted by the obstacle.
Pottipadu won his first three matches of the season at No. 3 singles over Helias, Rock Bridge and Rolla. The Rock Bridge match was important for Pottipadu because the Bruins have one of the best teams in the state.
“All of our coaches refer back to that match and say to bring the intensity like you did against Rock Bridge,” Pottipadu said.
Pottipadu was elevated to a No. 1 role for Saturday’s matches because the Kewpies' top two players, Junyi Wu and Daniel Shyu, were participating in the Missouri Science Olympiad State Tournament.
“It’s great that we have someone with the strong leadership skills that Sam does,” Hickman assistant coach Shaun Swartz said. “I hardly see him get frustrated and he keeps a positive body language.”
Pottipadu lost the No. 1 singles matches to Parkway Central and Lafayette on Saturday, but the result wasn’t his priority.
“My goal was to improve on my specific game by being consistent and aggressive,” Pottipadu said. “That’s what will help me in the long run.”
Pottipadu was born in Chennai, India. When he was 2 years old, his family moved to Bloomington, Ill., because of his dad’s job in computer programming. Pottipadu started taking tennis lessons when he was 3 years old and began to love the sport.
“As a kid I saw professional tennis and it sparked a passion in me that I didn’t know that I had,” Pottipadu said.
His family moved to Columbia in 2005 and Pottipadu attended the Christian Fellowship School through eighth grade. He decided to leave the school because there wasn’t a tennis program at the school.
“I really liked my old school, but my passion was tennis so I made the switch,” Pottipadu said.
Pottipadu is one of three returning players from last season’s Hickman varsity team. His experience and leadership is key for the rest of his team and always knowing where he is health-wise is important to him.
“If my health isn’t good, I won’t play well,” Pottipadu said.
Hickman returns to action at full strength 4 p.m. Monday in Jefferson City.