Ranjan Sharangpani can play power tennis.
He drills tirelessly with his coach at Capital High School, Tom Alongi, and with his dad Rajesh to develop racket speed. He joined CrossFit during the offseason to build strength specific to tennis.
But, at 5-foot-3, Sharangpani occasionally runs into an opponent who can outhit him. Not a problem, says Alongi.
“When that happens, he’s got the mental toughness, the discipline and focus to stay in the match by outlasting the other guy in each point and waiting for unforced errors,” Alongi said. “He has a variety of shots he can use to change things up.”
The trait earned Sharangpani the Class 3A West Central District singles championship last season as a sophomore. After losing the first set of the title match, 6-1, to Auburn’s Brian Thornquist, he talked to Alongi, then hit the reset button.
“I was trying too hard to hit too hard,” Sharangpani recalled.
“We talked between sets about being more consistent,” Alongi said. “Ranjan needed to move the ball around and wait for the right opportunity to go for a winner.”
The change in strategy helped Sharangpani win the next two sets. He moved on to the 3A state tournament, where he finished fifth.
Coming into Monday, Sharangpani has been undefeated so far at 13-0. He’ll play in the No. 1 singles match on Tuesday when the second-place Cougars (12-2, 11-1 3A South Sound Conference) go on the road to meet the only team in the league to beat Capital so far, Gig Harbor (12-1, 11-0).
Capital lost, 3-2, to the Tides on Sept. 20, though Sharangpani and the doubles team of Aidan Short and Ethan Griffith won their matches.
“We’re a deep team,” Alongi said. “If everybody plays up to their capabilities we can win. But it’s not just Gig Harbor, our last regular season match with Central Kitsap will be a challenge, too.”
Alongi credits Sharangpani with contributing to the Cougars’ depth beyond lending his own talents to the lineup.
“Ranjan’s started to take younger guys aside and work with them after practice,” Alongi said. “He’s a leader on our team and a giver. You don’t see that very often with the really good players.”
Sharangpani sees it as part of the commitment to team membership.
“Some of the guys have pretty good technique and fundamentals, but there might be one or two things they’re not doing that are so easy to fix,” he said. “I can’t let them throw away the opportunity to get better. It all helps the program as a whole get better, even lifting up guys at the bottom of the ladder.”
As for his own future in the sport, Sharangpani says he thrives on competition, and may try out for the team at whichever university he eventually attends, but preparing for a career in medicine, a field employing both of his parents, is more important.
“I’ll keep playing, either on the intercollegiate team or club team, but my education is going to be the focus.”