Moving halfway around the world to start a new life might be a daunting task, but Jonny Rigby is taking it all in stride.
Rigby, a freshman tennis player from Lancashire, England, who came to the United States for the first time Aug. 13, said he has enjoyed his time so far in the U.S., even though he finds it to be vastly different from home.
“The people are a lot more friendly and outgoing. It makes it easier to meet others,” he said.
Rigby was recruited and signed June 1 by men’s tennis coach Dann Nelson, who said he admired Rigby’s blue-collar work ethic and the weapons he has on the court.
This fall is the first Rigby will play tennis exclusively, as he only got to train three hours a week back home because of his rigorous academic schedule, he said.
He also played badminton, soccer and ran cross-country in high school at Winstanley College, a school renowned in England for its academics.
Coach Nelson said he thinks Rigby may have gotten his excellent footwork from playing soccer.
“It’s almost like Jonny could play a lot of different sports very, very well and he chose tennis, which we love,” Nelson said.
While in England, Rigby was the No. 1 singles player in his home county. He was also ranked No. 6 nationally in the 18 and under division by the Lawn Tennis Association.
Though Rigby is the team’s only new player, he said he thinks he has adjusted well.
Senior Brandon Florez said Rigby fit in immediately with the team, and he has made the transition well. One important thing Florez said Rigby brings to the team is a calm demeanor.
“He keeps his cool really well”; Florez said. “You never see him get too emotional. He does that better than anyone else. There’s no drama, just a really chill, down-to-earth guy” Florez said.
Rigby said he comes from a family of rugby players, as his grandfather and uncle both played professionally. Besides not being able to see his family and friends on a daily basis, Rigby said he misses English football the most.
“That’s a big part of the culture (in England). Every Saturday I’d go to football with my friends,” he said.
When he’s not in class or at tennis practice, Rigby said his roommate has shown him around Carbondale. He said he thinks American food is better than English food, and he has particularly enjoyed the pizza.
Ribgy said he would like to travel more throughout America during his time here, since he’s only been in southern Illinois so far.
“I’d like to see New York and Las Vegas and all the big places you hear about in England,” he said.
As for his upcoming tennis career at SIU, Rigby said he wants to continue to improve as he has over the past few years when he started to devote more attention to the game.
“The last couple of years, I think I’ve developed quite a lot,” he said. “I want to reach my maximum tennis potential.”
Coach Nelson said he is working with Rigby to use his attack skills during the right moment in a match. He said Rigby has the potential to be an excellent college player.
Rigby is acclimating well to the United States, Nelson said, and he expects him to be ready in spring time after focusing on fitness and technique this fall.
Florez said he likes what Rigby brings to the team and how he works with his teammates.
“I’m excited to see what we can do. I like to think that we can do much better than last year,” Florez said.
The men’s tennis team will begin its season Sept. 21-23 in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The Salukis will play against Middle Tennessee State University, Lipscomb University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.