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Tennis freshman talks first and last semester at SIU

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Freshman Param Pun hits a forehand in his singles match during SIU’s 7-0 win against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, March 25, 2017, at Garden Grove Event Center in Carbondale. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Freshman Param Pun hits a forehand in his singles match during SIU’s 7-0 win against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, March 25, 2017, at Garden Grove Event Center in Carbondale. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

Freshman Param Pun hits a forehand in his singles match during SIU’s 7-0 win against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, March 25, 2017, at Garden Grove Event Center in Carbondale. (Jacob Wiegand | @jawiegandphoto)

By Jonathan Thompson

One week after moving half-way across the globe to pursue his love of tennis, Param Pun learned that his tennis team would soon be no more.

“It was a shock for me,” said the freshman from Chandigarh, India, who started playing for the SIU men’s tennis team in January on a full ride scholarship.

The news about SIU’s decision to make this season the teams’ last wasn’t the only thing Pun was adjusting to.

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“[America] is really different from India,” he said. “I’ve never lived alone for so much time. I kind of sacrificed everything, leaving family and friends. Coming here was a big decision. But I’m happy here; I’m doing good in my academics as well as my athletics.”

Before coming to southern Illinois, Pun ranked No.12 in India and 444 on the International Junior tennis circuit.

Pun first picked up a racket when he was six years old.

“My father really liked tennis and I used to watch it with him,” he said. “When we found out there was a local tennis club near our house I joined, and over time I got good and fell in love with it.”

Now, the 5-foot-8-inch freshman is 11-1 in doubles with his partner — senior Wilder Pimentel — after a win Saturday against Wichita State in the program’s final home game.

Despite emotions being high because of the programs’ discontinuation for budget-saving matters, Pun has played well this season.

“It was difficult for everyone when we heard the news,” graduate assistant coach Jonny Rigby said. “But just like the rest of the guys, he has reacted well and had a great season so far.”

Rigby recalled one game in particular during which Pun really shined.

“Our win at Troy was something we will all remember Param for,” Rigby said. “He was unbelievably clutch in that match, particularly in doubles. It was great to see a freshman so relaxed in a high pressure situation like that.”

Pun came through two tight matches at Troy, winning his doubles 7-6(5) and then his singles 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.

In the classroom Pun garners similar respect from his teachers.

“Its really, really unfortunate” said Pun’s UCOL 101 teacher, Scott Rakow. “Because in his mind he’s moving to a foreign country, he’s playing a game that he loves, and he’s also getting an education … and within the first semester of relocating to a foreign country, his tennis program was cut, so instead of looking ahead at the next four years at SIU, he’s probably going to have to transfer if he wants to continue to play tennis.”

This is a decision Pun has made, though he has not yet announced what school he will be transferring to.

“It’s my first semester, as a freshman, I can not make a decision to stay here because there won’t be any tennis,” he said.

But until that decision is announced and he has to pack his bags for the second time this year, Pun said he just wants to enjoy the time he has left at SIU.

“I just got used to being [at SIU],” Pun said. “I just got used to everything. It’s going to be difficult learning a new area, new coach and team.”

Staff writer Jonathan Thompson can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @TheReal_Jt3.

To stay up to date with all your SIU softball news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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