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Philly Player Talks Tennis on Jeopardy

Everyone knows tennis players are great athletes. It seems there are some pretty smart ones out there, too.

Dilip Rajagopalan takes smart to a new level.

A Newtown Square (Pa.) resident who has been playing tennis for more than 40 years, Rajagopalan showed off his brains – and his love for tennis – when he appeared on an April 2014 episode of Jeopardy.

Rajagopalan’s career is in quantitative analysis and data science, meaning he works with doctors, insurance companies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and a whole lot of numbers. His specialties include bioinformatics, genetics, genomics, systems biology, drug discovery and development, translational medicine and much, much more.

Rajagopalan first tried out for Jeopardy in the 90s, then again in 2013. That December, he received a call that he had made the cut, then flew out to Los Angeles in January to film the show, which eventually aired in April.

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After the first commercial break when going through player introductions, Alex Trebek asked Rajagopalan about one of his biggest hobbies: USTA League Tennis.

“I was a bit surprised that he asked me about it,” said Rajagopalan, a 4.5 player who has competed and captained in mixed and men’s USTA Leagues since 2006. “Before the show they ask you to write down three things you’re interested in or would like to talk about, so I had thought traveling around the world would be mine. But Alex seemed very interested in the tennis aspect. I think he may be a player.”

Rumors have it that Trebek is a tennis player after all. It’s even been reported that he once purchased a house specifically because of the tennis court on the property. But tennis player or not, that didn’t save Rajagopalan from pulling a tough draw in his round of Jeopardy.

Rajagopalan was matched up against Julia Collins, who went on to win 20 straight matches. She accumulated more than $425,000 in that time.

“She was very, very good,” he said.

Just about everyone on Jeopardy is, and because of that, much of a players’ success comes from the categories that appear in each match.

“I’ve watched Jeopardy every day since I came to the United States,” Rajagopalan said. “Every player has their specialty. Some, like Julia, have a broader range. I knew from the start that the categories during my round didn’t match with what I was good at. At home, you can just shout out the answer. On the real game, it’s risky to guess. I didn’t win, but I was still very proud to make it on the show.”

Recently, Rajagopalan has competed on multiple USTA League teams. In 2016, he was registered on five teams, including three 4.5 teams, and two 8.0 mixed doubles teams. He said the combo of competition and social activity is what drew him in and keeps him playing.

“I’ve played with a large group of people and haven’t stopped,” he said. “I’ve always loved to play and enjoyed the sport.”

USTA League is the country’s largest recreational tennis league, helping more than 800,000 participants nationwide get on the court and compete against players of a similar age and skill level. For more information, or to learn how to join, click here.

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