For Amina Ismail, tennis continues to be a family affair

Ismail has followed in her family’s footsteps with 154 wins in her collegiate career.
Courtesy of Mizzou Athletics

A familiar voice shouts from the blistering hot stands overlooking the Mizzou Tennis Complex during a match on Sept. 21.

“So good, Amina … so good!”

The voice belongs to Shaaheda Ismail, senior Amina Ismail’s mother.

Ismail’s collegiate tennis career is a long time coming. She spent her childhood growing up by the courts, as tennis is a family affair for the Ismails.

“My dad is a tennis coach and so that’s why my brother and sister and I all play, all around, my relatives, everyone plays,” she said.

Her mom's large vocal presence, according to Ismail, is a new sensation.

“It's nice because she doesn’t get to come to all of them so when she does come it's definitely motivating for sure,” she said.

Ismail, who’s from Maineville, Ohio, spent her first two seasons competing close to home at Xavier University in Cincinnati. After the 2015-16 academic year, she transferred to Missouri.

The decision to leave home did not come easily. After all, Ohio is where her family is. Her sister, Safiyya, played collegiate tennis at the University of Cincinnati and her brother, Ra'ees, played at Xavier from 2005-09.

Ra’ees’ presence weighed heavily on Amina when it came time to commit to a university.

“It was a definitely huge factor for me because he has always been a pretty big influence in my life,” Ismail said.

Ismail was nothing short of sensational during her time at Xavier, collecting a staggering 88 victories over two years. But Ismail strove for more, opting to take her talents to the Southeastern Conference.

“There’s definitely a whole bunch of things that went into the decision, but one of the main ones was that I really just wanted to compete at a much higher level,” Ismail said. “I looked at all my options; I wanted to compete in the SEC and after talking to coach [Colt] Gaston about it, I knew that this was the right decision for me.”

After one year in the SEC, it’s safe to say Ismail has thrived with the heightened competition.

Ismail led the Tigers with 32 overall victories last season and along with her partner Bea Machado Santos, qualified for the NCAA Doubles Tournament.

The fall has been an adjustment period for Ismail, as she begins her quest to return to the national doubles tournament in the spring. Freshman Marta Oliveira is her new doubles partner and the duo seems to have avoided any early growing pains. Opening the season ranked No. 32 in the Oracle/ITA Division I Women's Preseason National Doubles Rankings, the duo ripped off three straight wins advancing to the quarterfinals at the ITA Central Regional in October, giving a glimpse of how dangerous they can be.

According to Ismail, they have natural chemistry.

“We definitely get along really well and our eye for doubles tends to go well together,” Ismail said. “I guess you could say we just push each other really well.”

Ismail’s role on the team is different as she enters her final season. She is in the midst of her second year with the Tigers, serving as team captain.

“Now that I have been here all last year and coming in as team captain, I take on a much bigger role in terms of leading the team, especially because we have so many new people, showing them what it's like and how things go,” she said.

With just one tournament left in the 2017 fall season, Ismail has lofty goals for the spring.

“The biggest one for me is for our team to make the NCAA tournament, I guess,” Ismail said. “Individually, I would love to go back for doubles and hopefully become an All-American.”

As the fall comes to a close, Ismail has one season left to compete collegiately, in the sport that has been played by members of her family for generations.

Edited by Eli Lederman |

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