Kireeth Karunakaran started his high school tennis career fast and never lost momentum.
Among his favorite memories was came as a freshman in 2016 at the Buckhead Rotary Tournament. Karunakaran remembered scrapping for a difficult win, and with it, a small reward.
“It was hot, a grueling match,” he said, “but my whole team was there to support me, and I fought it out and won. We had Mexican food after, and it was a great win.”
Karunakaran was a team MVP and a captain. He went undefeated his sophomore season and sported a 12-1 singles record last year.
Unfortunately, Karunakaran’s senior season came to an early end once the Georgia High School Association announced it would suspend and later cancel the remainder of the spring sport schedules due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was with my team practicing in the neighborhood,” Karunakaran said. “It was actually my off day, and I was just there helping out. When I heard, I was in a state of denial.”
Kennesaw Mountain was scheduled to compete in Valdosta four days after the shutdown began.
The canceled trip was usually Karunakaran’s favorite time of year. He was particularly fond of last season’s trip to Valdosta, and not just for the matches themselves.
“It was just just the boys and we were in the hotel room, and we were just goofing off and having a good time,” Karunakaran said. “Not really worried about the matches, we were just bonding as a team. Definitely the highlight of all four years.”
One of Karunakaran’s favorite aspects of his tennis career was the value he found in competing as an individual. He saw it as an opportunity to grasp real-life lessons.
“Tennis is a solo sport,” Karunakaran said. “When you are on the court, you do not rely on anyone else. I feel that the lessons you learn on the court really translate and supplement my progress off the court.”
Karunakaran also enjoyed learning with his team and helping them succeed. Seeing his teammates progress was fulfilling.
Karunakaran plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall and pursue a degree in computer science. He is interested in working for IBM or another large-scale company.
Joining a club tennis team at Georgia is how Karunakaran to continue his playing career, but he knows he will miss his former team.
“We always had a healthy competition,” he said. “It was fun, competitive and everything you would want.”