By Michael Vavaroutsos

At six and a half, Anna-Raphaëlle Serghi's parents signed her up for every sport imaginable, from soccer to swimming to tennis and everything in between. Then, when she was eleven, she faced a very difficult decision: she had to choose her favorite sport.

Little did she know that the decision to focus solely on tennis would lead her to study medicine and play in the NCAA for the Harvard University Crimson.

“I remember when I made this decision, my parents just said that I was excellent at tennis, so I chose tennis,” recalls Serghi, whose tennis journey includes visits to Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Panama for International Tennis Federation tournaments, as well as many other stops in Canada and the United States.

She started at the former Ottawa Athletic Club and also played at the Carleton Tennis Centre, where she was coached by Nick Mook Sang for almost eight years.

“He was the most significant person in my journey,” Serghi admits, noting that she has reached heights she never thought possible, including her “huge breakout year” in 2022 when she won both the Canadian U16 and U18 national titles, becoming the third player ever to do so.

These triumphs followed a fairly significant decline in their level of play during the pandemic.

“I think it was all part of the journey in the end,” said Serghi, who won an ITF junior doubles tournament in San Jose, Costa Rica, in May with Yale-bound Leena Friedman of Brooklyn, NY.

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“Even if you come out one day and a shot doesn't feel good, you try to perfect that skill,” Serghi adds. “I also think losing is a big motivating factor for me because I always want to go out there and see what I can do better the next time I'm back on the court.”

The final year student at Glebe Collegiate Institute says she tries to model her game on some of the best players in the world, including Iga Świątek, Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal.

“Rafael Nadal has been a great inspiration to me since I was a child,” says Serghi, who herself goes by the nickname “Raph.” “I really love his fighting spirit.”

Serghi first met Harvard's assistant tennis coach at a tournament in Florida, and when she made her official visit to the Ivy League university in Cambridge, MA, she knew immediately that she wanted to play and study there.

“I was absolutely thrilled with the school and everything there,” says Serghi, who chose Crimson verbally after her visit and then successfully completed tests, essays and interviews in the extensive application process.

Anna-Raphaëlle Serghi. File photo

“I chose Harvard because it has a good balance between academics and athletics,” she adds. “Some of these huge tennis and sports schools are really incredible when it comes to the athletic aspect, but I wasn't sure I would have much time for studying, so I really liked that balance.”

Although she will not decide on a major in her first year, Serghi plans to study neuroscience and may want to study medicine after completing her bachelor's degree.

Until then, she plans to compete in many tournaments this summer to prepare for her season with the Crimsons, which begins in August.

“I think it's going to be a really great experience because tennis is an individual sport and in college tennis you get to play for a team. There are great girls and great coaches at Harvard, so I'm really excited,” said Serghi, who won a bronze medal with Team Ontario at the 2022 Canada Summer Games and represented Canada at the 2022 World Junior Championships.

“I want to do my best and help my team in tennis while building good relationships,” she adds. “Living alone will really allow me to become an independent individual and become the best person I can be.”

Serghi says she is extremely grateful for the opportunities she has had and for the guidance she received from her parents Aurel and Laura, even back when they helped her choose tennis as her main pursuit.

“They helped me a lot throughout the whole process,” Serghi emphasizes. “My coaches, friends and family support me so much, without them none of this would have been possible. They are also crucial for my future.”

Read more about our 2024 High School Best Series, presented by Louis-Riel Sports-Études, as we tip our hats to the best local student-athletes at:

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