Growing up in Bangkok, Thawin “Ernie” Suksathaporn came to love the sport of tennis. Eventually he became good enough to become a top player on the junior circuit of his native country.
But he never thought that he would ever play tennis in college, let alone in the United States, or, even more specifically, in Toledo.
But a connection to another native Thai player on the Toledo Rockets’ roster put the wheels in motion that eventually led Suksathaporn to the Glass City.
“At first, I didn’t plan on playing (college) tennis in the United States,” said Suksathaporn. “My coach in Thailand was good friends with one of the players on the team (Mark Singnil). He said that I should play Division I tennis instead of going pro, and that I could study while playing tennis.”
As he made the transition to the United States from Thailand, Suksathaporn experienced the culture shock that is typical for many international students. At first, he felt homesick. But as he began to develop a camaraderie with his teammates, Suksathaporn grew to love Toledo and college life.
“When I moved here, it was my first time in the United States,” Suksathaporn said. “It was tough in my first year. I missed home a lot but I found new friends here, including my teammates, which helped a lot.”
One area that did not require as much transition for Suksathaporn was academics. A two-time Academic All-MAC selection, Suksathaporn holds a 3.5 GPA in mechanical engineering. He is currently working as an intern for Glow Security in Toledo, where he is helping to create a home security app. Suksathaporn said he plans to work for the company full time after he graduates this spring.
Suksathaporn’s acclimation on the court has gone smoothly, as well. A top-10 junior player in Thailand, Suksathaporn stepped right into the lineup as a freshman and never looked back. Now in his fifth season with the Rockets, Suksathaporn is considered by Head Coach Al Wermer to be a role model for the team.
“Everyone on the team enjoys being around Ernie,” said Wermer, now in his 26th season as Toledo’s head coach. “He is not one of those command-and-control types of leaders. He leads by example.”
One bump on the road for Suksathaporn came last fall when he fractured his right wrist in a skateboarding accident, sidelining him for months. He considered not playing tennis at all this season but ultimately changed his mind. He appears to be fit now, as last week he won two singles matches in a pair of Rocket victories.
“I didn’t want to end my tennis career like that,” said Suksathaporn. “This is my last year so I’m going to give it all I’ve got.”
Coach Wermer is certainly happy with the decision and has high expectations for Suksathaporn’s final year as a Rocket.
“I think it’s within his capability to be an all-conference player as a senior,” said Wermer. “That would be a big success story because he has worked hard and climbed up our lineup since he first arrived here. It would be an amazing finish for him.”