Redshirt sophomore Shiori Fukada celebrates during Ohio State’s loss to Duke at the ITA Indoor Championships on Feb. 8. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State Athletics

Ohio State sophomores Luna Dormet and Shiori Fukuda cheered on their teammates together after winning their individual singles matches against Youngstown State. Dormet hails from Tours, France, while Fukuda is from Tokyo. But the two players are close friends.  

Dormet and Fukuda were doubles partners for team matches against Youngstown State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Individually, both have success, with Dormet having a record of 26-6 this season and Fukuda recording a 23-9 record.

The pair became close friends because of what they have in common.

“We have bonded because, besides for Isabelle [Boulais] from Canada, we are the only two international players,” Fukuda said.

Their international backgrounds have led to homesickness and other struggles that domestic players have not faced, Fukuda said.

“There are times where Luna misses her family and I am there for her and vice versa,” Fukuda said. “American players do not completely understand.”

Both have stated that they are quite close to each other. They text each other often, have celebrated each other’s birthdays and share cuisine from their respective countries.

“We cheer and are constantly there for each other on and off the court,” Dormet said.

Both players’ portraits might be side by side on the official website roster, but their journeys to Ohio State could not be further apart.

Fukuda started playing tennis competitively at age 7 in Japan, and went through a dark period at age 18 that made her question playing tennis competitively.

“There were a lot of times when it was hard, but one moment specifically was when I was 18,” Fukuda said. “When I was 15 and 16, I was always a top-five high school tennis player in Japan. I stopped winning as much, and over time it had become a really tough time for me.”

The pressure of her coach’s expectations, the constant grind of the game and uncharacteristic losses were getting the best of Fukuda.

“Everyone’s expectations were quite high, and I was losing,” Fukuda said “I began to question myself. I was not confident in my game. I almost lost the drive.”

However, she battled through her lack of confidence and committed to Ohio State, which Fukuda said provided the best mix of education and athletics.

So far, Fukuda has found success both on and off the court for the Buckeyes. On top of being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Fukuda was also named Academic All-Big Ten and first team All-Big Ten in 2018.

Dormet started playing tennis at a later age and grew up playing soccer in France. She became interested in tennis from outside the court.

“One time, I was at my friend’s and we played Wii tennis,” Dormet said. “I have loved tennis since.”

Dormet, unlike Fukuda, has not experienced an adverse moment in her tennis career.

“I started pretty late. I noticed I could improve a lot, so there were no bad times,” Dormet said. “I just kept working on my game.”

Ultimately, the two hope to celebrate a Big Ten and national championship together, which with an 8-1 record in conference play and a No. 18 ranking in the ITA Top 25, could be a possibility.