Indy's own touring professional tennis player, Rajeev Ram, ranked as high as No. 90 in 2012 on the ATP Tour that includes the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, staged his third annual charity tennis exhibition on Saturday, Dec. 8. Joining him: his friendly foe and sometimes-partner Brian Baker, a childhood chum currently ranked No. 61, two promising junior stars (Bloomington South's Ronnie Schneider and Carmel's Sameer Kumar) and a revolving lineup of local club pros.
The event raised more than $14,500 on the night, said organizer Carrie Ritchie. Put on at Five Seasons Sports Club on 96th Street, it benefited the Hamilton County Community Tennis Association, which doles out tennis and college scholarship funds to children and junior players and also puts books—more than 25,000 since 2005—in the hands of students in the Indy metro area and about 700 cities nationwide. According to Helen Moser Petersen, HCCTA executive director, the organization gave 21,000 books to the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee's Super Baskets of Hope outreach program, in turn delivered to 7,000 hospitalized children in all 32 cities with NFL teams with an assist from Tony Dungy.
Here, a quick-hit Q&A with the EntouRAJ for Kids' namesake and his native Nashvillian (Tennessee, not Indiana) friend:
What compelled you to make Hamilton County and kids' education the focus for your charity?
Ram: At least at the start, my thought was to give hundreds of thousands of dollars away over time, to have that direct impact of buying books and giving to kids.
In the December 2011 event, Indiana Fever star Tamika Catchings played with you. What did you think of her WNBA Finals performance with the team? You were supportive on Twitter.
Ram: She's unbelievable. Three times a gold medalist, MVP of the league, and more. She's been a good friend for a few years. We trained together at the St. Vincent Sports Performance Center.
You're on the tennis court the world over so much. How often are you back in the Indianapolis-Carmel area during the year?
Ram: I'm on the road a good 30 weeks of the year, in a good year back here 15 to 20 times. Sometimes it's a day or two here or there. Probably here 100 days of the year.
Baker: You haven't been here that often this year.
Ram: Okay, so maybe 70 days.
What are the advantages to being based out of Indy or Nashville, cities not exactly buzzing like L.A. or London?
Baker: It's where I'm from, and it has the advantages of family and friends. You can't put a price on a quality meal at home. It's hard to find a quality hit at times, yeah.
Rajeev, when you're in Indy, do you have favorite places to go and things to do? Where do you take out a dapper chap like this Brian Baker?
Ram: We really don't go out much. It's nice to be home and do things with family and friends. Eating out is normal during the long tennis season. It's good to be at home.
Some photos courtesy Jon Brewer Photography. Follow him @JonBrewerPhoto.