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Freshman Kian Vakili of Penn men's tennis (Photo from Penn Athletics).

For most student-athletes, getting to college can test patience and willpower, as they struggle with increased competition, commitments, and challenges. But for freshman Kian Vakili, the daily grind required by Penn men's tennis is nothing new. 

The Longwood, Fla. native was coached by his father Babak, who played collegiately at New York University. Babak also served as a mentor and inspiration to young Vakili throughout his junior tennis career. 

“My dad, at a young age, taught me the importance of positive energy,” Vakili said. 

Babak always had a phrase to motivate and ground Vakili, such as "just play tennis." He takes this message to mean "don’t focus on anything else" and uses it to control his nerves and doubts while playing. Vakili attempts to channel his father's messages and eliminate distractions, despite living the busy life of an Ivy League student-athlete.

Another one of his father's teachings was patience, which has come in handy for Vakili so far at Penn.

“I love to compete,” Vakili said. “I had a few injuries last semester, so now I’m pretty hungry to compete and help out the team in any way I can. I really do love the sport, I can’t not play tennis.”

When he has seen the court, Vakili has played only doubles, which presents a very different experience from singles.

“When you’re playing doubles, you have to strategize with your partner and feed positive energy,” Vakili said. “In singles, even though you have support from the outside, it’s difficult to manage your emotions.”

Vakili offered the example of double faulting during singles, where you have to figure out how to “pick yourself up” since it's just yourself on the court.

Despite only joining the program last month, coach Rich Bonfiglio spoke highly of Vakili's on-court talent. 

“Kian is a very versatile [and] tall righty with a lot of racquet talent,” Bonfiglio said. “He has the ability to create off both wings as well as control the match with his big serve.”

Kian would admit that his Penn career is just beginning, and he still has room to grow, but he's still trying to be the best that he can.

“I enjoy playing,” Vakili said. “I’d rather be doing this than anything else.”

Bonfiglio agrees with Vakili's assessment, and is optimistic for the freshman's future career as a Quaker. 

“As Kian continues to become fitter and stronger, my hope is he will be a consistent contributor for us on the court this year and in coming years,” Bonfiglio said.