Graduate student Natasha Subhash topped Kentucky’s Zoe Hammond by a score of 6-3, 6-2 at the Tennessee Invitational Oct. 28. The win was her 100th singles victory at Virginia, making her just the eighth Cavalier in program history to ever attain that mark.
Those 100 victories tell just a fraction of the impact Subhash has had on the University and community during her time here. Earlier this year, Subhash attended a banquet at the U.S. Open to receive the Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship Award, the most prestigious honor that the Intercollegiate Tennis Association awards.
“It's a super huge national award given to one female and male player who exhibits the qualities of Arthur Ashe, who was this amazing player, but also a leader and spokesperson — he made a huge impact on tennis,” Subhash said. “So being able to be compared to him is a huge honor.”
During her time on Grounds, Subhash has certainly exemplified these qualities. As an undergraduate student, she worked as a tutor for local elementary school students through Madison House’s Athletes Committed to Education program. She also ran a youth clinic for children in the poorest congressional district in New York while she was there to accept the award, an experience that she found incredibly rewarding.
“They're all great players, and it just shows you a different perspective,” Subhash said. “It was also cool to think about how we can make tennis more accessible. Because it's not usually thought of as a rich man’s sport, but it's expensive to do everything that they need to do to be good.”
The income inequality issue in the sport — particularly for American children trying to pick it up — has been well-documented in recent years. While the entry level costs of racquets and balls are relatively low, the pay-to-play nature of the highest-level tournaments can easily turn into thousands of dollars spent each year to reach the college level. While Subhash cannot fix these systemic problems by herself, she has tried to make the sport more accessible for all by participating in activities such as hosting the clinic.
Subhash attributes her desire to help others and leave a legacy that extends beyond the tennis court to Bob Pass. A childhood coach and mentor, Pass founded the Pass Academy that Subhash attended prior to Virginia. Per the website, the Academy strives “to create the environment and provide the coaching to enable our students to pursue excellence in tennis and in life.”
“Seeing him and talking to him about his life and experiences always inspired me and pushed me to be the best version of myself,” Subhash said. “He was a great coach, but he just wanted us to be the best people possible.”
As a current student of the McIntire School of Commerce’s Masters in Accounting program, Subhash looks to bring her best in her academic pursuits as well as her athletic ones. An exemplary student, Subhash received the Walter B. Doggett Accounting Award in May 2023 for her outstanding scholarship in the field of accounting. She is also an Academic All-American and two time recipient of Virginia’s Female Scholar Athlete of the Year award.
“I am really proud of the [awards] that combine this school and this sport, because it just shows how hard I've worked on both aspects,” Subhash said. “This semester, on a typical Monday, I have practice from 7:30 to 10 in the morning, and then I go to class from 11 to 5. And then after that, that’s when I like to do my homework. So it's a very, very long day, and no free time, but it's rewarding. When spring comes and our team’s doing well, it feels amazing.”
Her work ethic has shown itself in the classroom and on the court, as she has led the Cavaliers to at least an NCAA Tournament Round of 16 appearance every year of her career so far, with the exception of her first year in which the tournament was canceled due to the pandemic. While the Intercollegiate Tennis Association has yet to release their preseason team rankings, they have Subhash in the top 50 singles players in the country, and she will look to once again lead Virginia to an extended postseason run to cap off her collegiate career.
“As a representative of the U.Va. tennis family and our University, Natasha has demonstrated excellence in so many parts of her life since she arrived in Charlottesville in 2019,” Coach Sara O’Leary said.
What happens after this season for Subhash is still undecided, primarily because she is purely focused on the present. She was candid discussing her prospects for playing professionally after graduation, but wanted to make clear that her focus is succeeding as much as possible in the spring for her final year of eligibility.
“It was on the table for a while,” Subhash said. “But I think with some of my chronic injuries, it's not so much in the picture anymore. But I'm fully invested in the college tennis part and I want to give that my full attention.”
Whatever comes next, Subhash has left a legacy of service, scholarship and outstanding athletic performances at Virginia that will surely stand the test of time.