Bhandari said, “I picked up tennis when I was around seven or eight, but I didn’t play competitive tennis until I was about 13, so it was just very recreational before that. I then started competing, I got an actual coach, and he taught me a lot of my skills like the techniques that I have today. So I started competing in the Singapore league and slowly branched out to more national tournaments around Singapore. Finally, I played for my school’s varsity team for three years before I came here.”
Bhandari is known for her coachability and relentless attitude. No matter if she is down a set or winning big, her aggression on the court distinguishes her from other members of the team, according to Head Coach Deborah Chase and Reimi Kusaka ’21.
“Rhea showed time and again this year that she is both a fierce competitor and a coachable player. She came back to win several matches after having lost the first set. She listened to advice and was able to make adjustments all the while keeping her head high and having a positive attitude. She grew tremendously as a doubles player as well. Throughout the season, she worked hard on her volleys and her confidence at the net. Her serve was tremendous, so it helped having that to rely on as well,” wrote Coach Chase in an email to The Phillipian.
Kusaka added, “She’s very aggressive. She takes her chances and is very dominant. On her serve, she is never scared. I think that she doesn’t doubt herself, or even if she does, she shows her opponent that she is determined and will never give up.”
Beyond possessing a contagious determination, Bhandari has proved crucial in fostering a supportive environment, according to Sofia Poncel ’21 and Kusaka. Bhandari has helped to ease Poncel’s transition from the Varsity B team this year, according to Poncel.
Poncel said, “She was very welcoming. From my perspective, it was not awkward but it was a little weird transitioning up from Varsity B, but she really welcomed me onto the team. At the beginning of the season, during one of our first practices, she warmed up with me and we became doubles partners, so that was how we became close and I felt more included on the team.”
Kusaka added, “She has inspired a lot of people on the team to never give up. Earlier in the season when we had a really tough loss against Deerfield, she just sat next to me and comforted me and she just helped made me feel better both on and off the court. I think that’s one of the reasons why she’s such a great captain.”
Bhandari’s off-court friendship with fellow Co-Captain Katherine Hu ’19 has allowed them to possess a cohesive bond. Beyond complementing each other as leaders, they make a strong doubles team, and contributed to the team’s Kent Tournament win this season, according to Coach Chase.
“Though she worked well with whatever teammate she played doubles with, Rhea really hit her stride when playing with [Katherine] in the Kent Tournament, where they were able to play a lot of matches, win a title, and gain confidence as a doubles team. The fact that they have a great friendship helped them communicate on the court as well,” wrote Chase.
Hu added, “Being Co-Captain with Rhea is awesome because we are really good friends outside of school as well, and together I think we work very well. Her as a captain—she’s really supportive, she’s energetic and she’s always there cheering for her girls and planning special events, just trying to get us all together.”
Bhandari enjoys the friendships she has formed and her role in ensuring each of her teammates understands the value of their impact.
“My favorite part is being able to connect to a lot of the girls and being there for them when they want to talk. A lot of the girls have had a couple of tough matches and hard losses, so I like being there for them and understanding what they’re going through. I think a big part of being captain is also just being super encouraging and even making every person on the team feel like they belong and that they are a valuable teammate and a valuable player,” said Bhandari.
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