Five Questions For… Preethi Mukundan

Preethi Mukundan

Preethi Mukundan is a new board member of the Tennis Coalition SF. She played tennis competitively growing up, achieving a top USTA national ranking of #2 in G16s, #16 G18s, and an ITF world ranking of 174 (singles) and 234 (doubles).  She went on to play NCAA Division 1 Tennis at Harvard University, reaching #40 in the US Intercollegiate rankings. She is excited to join the Coalition in helping to champion public tennis and cultivate a community around the sport.

Professionally, Preethi is the head of Fitbit Insights & Analytics at Google. She has an undergraduate degree from Harvard University in Psychology (with an emphasis in Cognitive Neuroscience) and an MBA from the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley.

1.How did you first get into tennis?

The love for racket sports runs in the family! My father played tennis and self-taught himself to collegiate and state level excellence in India. My mother also represented her college and state on the ping pong tables, badminton courts, and even “ball” badminton (which is a tennis-badminton hybrid sport native to South India).  It was only inevitable that their first-born child (me) would learn to love racket sports as well. When I turned eight, my father took me out to play tennis at the local public courts (in Folsom, California) and the rest is history!

2.How did the youth development program in Sacramento that you participated in shape you as a tennis player?

I often joke that I spent more time at the Spare Time Tennis clubs than I did at home growing up! Bill and Margie Campbell, the creators of Spare Time, Inc., had a mission to build facilities with enough courts that could develop junior talent. As part of that mission, they created an amazing junior tennis academy that offered affordability, structure, and world-class coaching to highly motivated players such as myself.

I also attribute much of my development to my coach, Rich Andrews. He himself is a highly accomplished professional tennis player and coach, earning many accolades including acceptance to the USTA NorCal Hall of Fame. He was as much my life coach as he was my tennis coach. He taught me the importance of technique and learning good habits (quality over quantity). He taught me how to stay present and grounded through routine and breath. And above all, he emphasized the importance of playing fairly and holding to your values even when your opponent may not do the same. I took it to heart and ended up winning sportsmanship awards in every age division, and at both nationals and ITFs venues. I still carry these lessons with me today, both on and off the court.

My biggest take-away from my childhood is that becoming an accomplished competitive tennis player requires a full system of support. In my case, it meant parents who wholeheartedly supported me, access to tennis facilities, world-class coaching, mentors who cared about my individual development and local talent who pushed me to get better every day. It really does take a village and I was extremely lucky to have had that opportunity.

3.What was your experience like playing on the Harvard tennis team?

Competitive tennis is a lonely sport. The best part of playing tennis at Harvard was being part of a team. My fondest memories range from singing karaoke in the team van to sharing the emotional tides of wins and losses – ultimately making friends for life. I had the honor of captaining the team my senior year and enjoyed every memory made along the way.

I also cherished playing in the Seabright/Prentice cup, which is an international intercollegiate tennis event dating back to 1921. The format is a multi-week series of matches that culminates in a show-down between a joint Oxford/Cambridge team vs. a Yale/Harvard team. The competition itself takes place every two years, alternating between the UK (held at Wimbledon), and the US (held in Flushing Meadows). Despite its long-standing tradition, my team was the second ever women’s team to participate in the event, and the first women’s team to travel overseas to play at Wimbledon. It was an incredible few weeks of cultural exchange, tennis scrimmages and ultimately, a rare chance to play on the finest grass courts known to the tennis world!

While these memories make for incredible stories, it is the time I and the Harvard team spent supporting the tennis clinics and programs at "Strong Women, Strong Girls" that inspired me the most. The mission of this organization is to empower young girls to dream big, gain access to mentorship, and learn through sports. My experience mentoring / coaching with this organization continues to serve as inspiration for ways I plan to give back in my local Bay Area community.

4.You recently joined the Tennis Coalition SF Board of Directors. What inspires you to contribute to public tennis in San Francisco?

When I moved to the Bay Area nine years ago, I struggled to find publicly accessible courts and I craved a similar community-feel to what I had growing up in Sacramento. It was hard to meet new players, and it was tough to find a consistent place to play without paying high costs at a local tennis club.

Given these challenges, the Tennis Coalition SF mission to champion public tennis spoke to me immediately! The recent opening of the Goldman Tennis Center is an incredible achievement and only one of the many ways this organization has made an impact. Seeing as San Francisco and the broader Bay Area will be my long-time home, I am excited to help build a community here like the community I was blessed to grow up with in Sacramento.

5.What hobbies and interests do you have off the court?

Beyond tennis, I enjoy other racket sports including squash, badminton, and my newest obsession – pickleball! Off the courts, I love ballroom dancing (salsa, swing, etc) and casual hikes through the many beautiful trails Northern California has to offer.