A seemingly random encounter on the tennis courts lead to coach Bill Graham recruiting the winningest player in the school’s history.
Sometimes a coach can luck out.
That’s exactly what happened when Bill Graham, the girls tennis coach at Central High School, was walking around the courts at Abraham Lincoln High School and met Tiffany Atmadja, who was also at the school playing tennis with her dad.
“He came over and we were talking, and I told him I was going to Central,” Atmadja said. “I knew I wanted to play tennis, but I didn’t know when they started.”
Graham may have been happy to add a player to his roster, but he certainly had no idea what kind of impact his then-newcomer would have over the past four years.
Atmadja led the Lancers to four Public League championships and four District 12 (city) championships.
Last week, Central defeated Masterman 5–0 on Tuesday and then bested O’Hara by the same score to win the two crowns.
She also is the all-time leader in wins at Central with 67. She also helped the Lancers go 53–0 in dual matches against District 12 opponents.
It’s hard to see how a player could have done more for a school.
“I love playing for Central,” said Atmadja, who played at №2 singles this year. “We’ve been winning a lot because there are so many good players on the team. I’m really proud of all of them.”
Atmadja was one of the best players in Public League play. She advanced to the semifinals of the Public League individual tournament before falling to Washington’s phenom Eliza Askarova, who has run roughshod over every one of her local opponents and is expected to make noise in the state tennis tournament.
“It was a lot of fun playing her because she’s so good,” Atmadja said. “She beat me in straight sets, but it was still fun to match up against someone like her. It’s so different playing against an opponent like that, but that’s how you get better.
“The individual championship would be nice, but the team win is more important because it’s more fun to win with your friends.”
That’s the exact attitude that made Atmadja the perfect leader for the top girls tennis team in the city.
“Given how modest Tiffany is, you’d never know she just broke the school record for career wins,” Graham said. “She is often critical of herself, which is probably why she is such a strong player. She is not satisfied with the status quo and knows she has to work hard to improve.
“Our team has taken on the personality of our captain. We go out there with little fanfare and play for each other.”
Being a leader is something Atmadja took very seriously.
In the Public League, a lot of players who join the tennis team come in with little or no experience. Central had the advantage of having a player like Atmadja who not only knew how to play the sport, but was eager to help her teammates learn.
“I loved helping because it would be fun to see them get better,” the Mayfair resident said. “I liked working with the other girls. We have a lot of good tennis players on the team. I had help, so I like helping them.”
Most of Atmadja’s help came in the form of her coaches and her dad, who got started in tennis around the same time his daughter did.
And Atmadja may have surpassed her dad in terms of playing the game.
“I think I can beat him now,” Atmadja said with a laugh. “He’s good, he’s helped me a lot. I got better by playing him.”
Now Atmadja wants to help people off the court.
While she’s unsure of where she’ll end up, she hopes to major in pharmacy.
“I like science and I really like helping people,” said Atmadja, who is looking at Temple, Pittsburgh and Thomas Jefferson University, the former Philadelphia University, and is leaning toward not playing tennis in college. “You can really help people by being a pharmacist, and it seems like something I’d like.”
Almost as much as she likes leaving Central with four titles.
Last year, she gave badminton a shot and ended up being the team’s top player. But this year she’s going to enjoy the rest of her final year at Central.
“Winning four straight is great and this year was great,” Atmadja said. “Freshmen year, we had three good players join the team at the same time, and I think that helped us. But this year is nice because it’s the last one. I’m really proud of what we did.
“I’m looking forward to doing things like the prom and senior trip. Winning our last one was very special.”