Sophomore finds home away from home

By Tyler Dixon

 

Tennis player Jonny Rigby left his home country, his favorite football club and cold weather when he made the trip to Carbondale last year to extend his tennis career.

Rigby finished last season with a 15-3 singles record and a 4-1 conference doubles record with teammate Badr Cherradi. Rigby ended his singles season on a seven-match winning-streak.

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Rigby grew up in Wigan, England where he started playing tennis at 6 years old. His family is full of avid rugby players and the men on both sides of his family played professionally and semi-professionally. He said his mother was the reason he decided to focus on tennis rather than rugby.

“My mom didn’t want me getting beat up, so she made me play tennis,” he said.

Coach Dann Nelson said he found Rigby on YouTube and he talked with Rigby’s parents over the phone before he signed.

“We just got (along) really well on the phone and I spoke to his parents and we kind of hit it off,” Nelson said.

Nelson said it was mostly an easy transition for Rigby, who already spoke the language. There were other things that made Rigby’s move a little more difficult.

Rigby said the weather in Carbondale was an obstacle he needed to overcome. In Wigan, where he grew up, the average high temperature in July is 68 degrees while the in Carbondale; the average high temperature in July is 89.

“I’d like walk to class and I’d get there and be dripping in sweat,” Rigby said. “I remember coming out to practice and jogging around the courts to warm up, and I was just sweating and needed to drink water already.”

Rigby said another issue that he had to adjust to was that all of the other players lived off-campus while he lived in the residence halls.

Cherradi said despite Rigby living in the dorms, teammates were still able to bond with him while Rigby also made friends in the residence halls.

ALEXA ROGALS | DAILY EGYPTIAN

Sophomore tennis player Jonny Rigby practices Friday at University Courts. Rigby held a 15-3 singles record last year, making him the leading player for singles. The men’s team’s first match will be Sept. 20 in Murfreesboro, Tenn., for the Middle Tennessee State University Dale Short Shootout.

“I made new friends living in the dorms, the first couple weeks were a bit tough trying to make new friends,” Rigby said. “After two to three weeks, I was settled and nothing really concerned me after that.”

Rigby said after he get’s done with practice and classes, he likes to relax and hang out with his team. He said it’s good to be able to get to know the team off the court as well.

Rigby said there are a few things he misses in his home country, not just the typical answer of family.

“Obviously my family and friends but apart I’d say definitely the fútbol,” Rigby said. “I don’t really think there’s anything like that (passion) in America, it can literally make or break your weekend if your team loses.”

Rigby knew a player that he used to play against that played tennis at the University of Arkansas. Rigby said he was a big reason why he wanted to continue playing in the United States.

Rigby said it’s not his skills on the court that are most valuable but his mentality to never give up is his best weapon.

“I don’t think I’m the most unbelievably talented, I just sort of can give everything I got and not give up,” Rigby said. “Usually that can help me win.”

Nelson said he has paired freshmen with upperclassmen a lot during his time at SIU and it has helped players develop.

“We want to see what everybody’s strengths and weaknesses are in the doubles game,” Nelson said.

Cherradi said he has confidence Rigby will always work as hard as he can.

“I know Jonny, I know he will do good anyway, he’s always serious in practice and matches,” he said. “He will always give his best.”

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