For redshirt senior Mimi Fotopoulos, playing tennis at Oklahoma is a family tradition.
Fotopoulos is a third-generation Sooner: both her parents and grandparents met at Oklahoma. Her father, Sam Fotopoulos, played tennis at OU and was a Big 8 champion at No. 1 singles, while her mom, Angie, was on the Pom squad.
Her older brother, Chris, also played tennis at Oklahoma from 2009-2013.
Fotopoulos’ parents were introduced by Joe Braver, Oklahoma tennis great and teammate of Sam. Now, Fotopoulos plays on courts named after Braver and his family at the Headington Family Tennis Center.
Though she grew up outside the Sooners state – in Prairie Village, Kansas, to be exact – Fotopoulos and her family made regular trips to Oklahoma for football games and other sporting events.
In fact, Fotopoulos has spent so much time on OU’s campus that head coach Audra Cohen lets her give tours to recruits when they come to Norman on their visits. “One day, [Cohen] just asked me, ‘Hey Mimi, you know everything about this school.’ And everyone laughs because any fun fact about Oklahoma, I probably am able to tell you.
She always laughs because I’m always like, ‘yeah, over there is where my mom and dad had their first kiss,’ and then we always joke about it because it’s true, we’ve had a lot of good memories on this campus as a family over all.”
Despite her family’s Sooner heritage, Fotopoulos’ journey to OU was not straight path; in fact, now in her fifth year, Fotopoulos has played at three schools for four different coaches.
When she was being recruited out of high school, she looked for a school where she could branch out on her own. “I really wanted to carve out my own legacy,” Fotopoulos said, and chose the University of Tennessee as the place to do so.
After a year at Tennessee, Fotopoulos transferred to TCU as a sophomore to play for head coach Dave Borelli. Borelli retired from coaching after 12 years at TCU, and his staff left as well. Faced with a decision as to her collegiate future, Fotopoulos chose to return to her Sooner roots. “I said, ‘let’s do it. Let’s go to OU.’”
Though her family had supported her throughout her entire career, her parents and brother were elated to find out that Fotopoulos wanted to carry on her family’s tradition at Oklahoma. She applied for a second transfer, and waited anxiously to hear back from the NCAA.
"I knew what it was like to be a Sooner, but stepping on to the court the first day in my Oklahoma tennis shirt and looking down and seeing that crimson and cream logo and the whole thing – it’s been unbelievable"
-- Mimi Fotopoulos
Her family received the answer before she did, and surprised Fotopoulos with the news.
“My mom had dressed my dog up in an Oklahoma tennis t-shirt and they had my dog run out in the Sooner stuff.”
“I just remember bawling,” she said.
When she arrived on campus, she was required to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules, but that didn’t crush Fotopoulos’ spirit. From day one, she felt right at home.
“I knew what it was like to be a Sooner, but stepping on to the court the first day in my Oklahoma tennis shirt and looking down and seeing that crimson and cream logo and the whole thing – it’s been unbelievable,” Fotopoulos said.
In her two years as a Sooner, Fotopoulos has a combined total of 33 wins in doubles and singles play. She was also a 2017 recipient of the Dr. Gerald Lage Academic Achievement Award, the Big 12 Conference’s highest academic honor.
Fotopoulos will graduate in May with a degree in communications, ending a journey that was a lifetime making.
Sunday’s match against Kansas State will mark last regular season match Fotopoulos will play on the courts named after Joe Braver and his family, the man who introduced her parents. It will mark the final time competes at home for the team that has been a part of her life since the day she was born.
And of course, her family will make the trek from Kansas to watch Fotopoulos’ final home contest, just as they have for all of Oklahoma’s home matches this season.
“It’s going to be very special for all of us,” Fotopoulos said of playing her last match at the Headington Family Tennis Center. “Just to look up in the stands and see my brother out there cheering me on, and my dad and my mom – it’s just really cool to get to experience that with them because they’ve been just as much a part of my journey as I have. It’s been cool to be able to share that.”