Vim De Alwis doesn’t always talk about his life, but when he does, he tells a remarkable story.
De Alwis, a sophomore, is a Sri Lankan native with a very calm and personable demeanor. Everything that comes out of his mouth and off of his racquet has an ease and precision in it. De Alwis had an interesting path to Penn, including stops for international play and chances to learn the game in other countries.
De Alwis’ journey in tennis began at the age of four in Malawi, Africa. It was where his family was located at the time, thanks to his father’s career working for Lipton Iced Tea. Racquet sports were not unusual to the De Alwis family.
“My dad actually played squash and tried to go professionally,” De Alwis said. “So, at the sports club he used to play squash - you know young kids don’t really play squash - and when he used to play squash, I would take tennis lessons and I’ve been playing tournaments since I was under six.”
De Alwis’ family eventually ended up in Indonesia, where he spent his time playing tennis before coming to the States. Not unfamiliar to those in the tennis world, De Alwis competed in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) circuit, which took him all over the world for competition.
De Alwis even competed in the 2012 ITF Junior Australian Open and the Davis Cup for Sri Lanka, which can be seen as the ‘World Cup of Tennis,’ and while Sri Lanka was not in the World Group that year (the group that competes for the world title), it was a major accomplishment to be recognized as one of the best players in the country.
“I played the Aussie Open in January and I played Davis Cup in February,” De Alwis said. “Both of those experiences were the two highlights of my career. It was really cool just to get exposed to the players at that level.”
After competing internationally, De Alwis played a showcase tournament at Yale alongside other highly touted players, with Penn coach David Geatz watching on.
“In the summer of 2011 ... that’s when coach Geatz came and watched me,” De Alwis said. “I actually won that tournament there. That’s when I started talking to him.
“I really like Coach Geatz , and that’s pretty much the reason I came to Penn.”
One thing is for sure, De Alwis loves playing in college. It has given him a change of pace from the lonely “you against the world” mentality that is required to play in the ITF circuit.
“It’s the team aspect,” De Alwis said. “You feel like you’re playing for your team and not for yourself ... I enjoy playing in college way more.”
De Alwis will look to play at the No. 2 spot for the remainder of the season after a bumpy pre-season fall season, a campaign marked by close losses and inconsistency.
But the college season is now underway, a circuit where De Alwis’ international experience and prowess is on display.
De Alwis has a certain philosophy about college competition, one that Geatz admires from his No. 2 player.
“I want to play as high as possible,” De Alwis said. “I learned a lot from [that campaign] and have been working hard with coach Geatz , but I think it’s always more important to play where [your] coach puts you.
“It’s important to go out there, no matter where you’re at and just play your ass off.”