Rajeev Ram Reflects on Hometown Influence, Pro Tennis Career & Giving Back
Having traveled the country and the world for years as a professional tennis player, Rajeev Ram will always look fondly toward the Hoosier state, and Carmel in particular, for several reasons.
“Playing at Carmel, at the high school and the Racquet Club, had a huge positive influence on me,” says Ram, a Carmel High School Hall of Fame inductee. “I’m 36 years old and have been playing pro tennis for 15 years, and I still enjoy it. I feel like if I didn’t have those experiences with great people around me to influence me, I might be burnt out by now. It was really just a glorified hobby for a long time, and those around me let me do that and didn’t push me too much.”
Ram’s tennis journey began with casual matches against his father in northern California at their local park. He developed a passion for the game and soon realized he possessed uncommon ability.
“I don’t remember life without tennis, more or less,” says Ram, who was born in Colorado, and whose family moved to California when he was one month old. “I was an active kid and enjoyed all sports, and tennis was just something I did a little bit better than any other sport.”
In 1996, when Ram was 12 years old, his family moved again, this time to Indiana. He began playing at the Carmel Racquet Club and, as his game continued to improve, thoughts of eventually going pro began to surface.
“I was about 16 years old when I felt like I had made some big jumps as far as my skill level and that, if I could continue to make progress, I could make a career out of it,” says Ram, who won two NCAA titles at the University of Illinois. “Before then, I considered it something that was fun and that could be a road to a good education, but by the mid-teen years when I was one of the better players in the world for my age group, I realized I could really keep going with it.”
During his two years playing at Carmel High School, Ram became all-state as well as the state singles champion. After his sophomore season, he decided to forego high school tennis in favor of higher-level play.
“Tennis is a funny sport because with a lot of other sports, you play high school then college, and then on to the pros – but since tennis is so global, it doesn’t work like that,” says Ram, who won the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics with Venus Williams in mixed doubles competition, and made it to the finals of the U.S. Open mixed doubles in 2016. “Kids will play at an international level from a very young age, and you have to look for that sort of competition if you’re going to make a career out of it.”
Ram won his first Grand Slam men’s doubles title with Joe Salisbury at the 2020 Australian Open, and tried to find a silver lining in the delay that the coronavirus pandemic forced on the pro tennis world for a while.
“There was a lot of momentum from that [Australian Open] win that got stopped,” Ram says. “It was weird not to travel and do what I typically do, but I have a lot of mileage from so many years playing on tour, so I took that time to think about how to preserve my body for a few more years. I didn’t mind the time off, and I spent some good time at home with my wife in Indiana.”
In 2010, Ram launched EntouRaj for Kids, a nonprofit organization that generates funds for tennis programs and scholarships. Throughout the years, the organization’s leaders have put together exhibition matches featuring tennis pros like Andy Roddick, Jennifer Brady and Alison Riske.
“High school tennis is such a fond memory of mine, and we try to raise funds to help other high school programs that don’t have the funds for uniforms, rackets, nets, balls or whatever,” Ram says. “The exhibitions have gotten difficult to coordinate and we’ve switched gears more recently, so now people can come to our foundation or make direct donations. In exchange for donations, we offer packages, like a guest package where you can be a guest of mine at the U.S. Open and other big tournaments around the world.”
Ram continues to compete in the tennis circuit and still loves the game.
“I still enjoy playing, I still enjoy practicing – I love it all, and I think a lot of that comes from people around me at a young age, including in Carmel, letting me set my own pace and control the amount that I was involved in tennis,” Ram says.
To learn more about the EntouRaj for Kids nonprofit organization, visit entourajforkids.org.