Located on the African continent, the Nile River is considered the longest river in the world. Its 4,132-mile span covers 11 countries, including Egypt.
The waterway also partially explains where Lancaster Country Day sophomore tennis phenom — and freshly crowned state champion — Nile Abadir gets his name. His paternal grandparents came from Egypt to the United States in the 1960s. His maternal grandparents, meanwhile, side have Irish roots.
“And Niall is a traditional Irish name,” Abadir said. “We were able to recognize both sides of the family by my parents naming me Nile.”
His family roots also help explain Abadir’s athletic explosion this spring. On the high school tennis circuit, he won the Lancaster-Lebanon League Class 2A singles and doubles titles, the District Three Class 2A singles title, and on Saturday picked up a gold medal in the PIAA Class 2A singles tournament.
Abadir’s maternal grandfather, Harry St. Clair Garman, is a McCaskey Athletic Hall of Famer who played in the 1963 Big 33 football game before going on to play at Cornell University.
His paternal grandfather, Akef Abadir, was a farmer in Egypt — the farms fed by irrigation from the Nile River — and came to the United States in the 1960s on an academic scholarship to Cornell. It was a coincidence that Akef Abadir and Garman graduated from Cornell two years apart.
That might help explain why Nile Abadir is also a standout in the classroom, having already skipped two grade levels in math. And why he recently launched his own nonprofit, which works with Lancaster-based TennisCentral. In it, Abadir creates software to track donations coming to TennisCentral in an effort to send back accurate tax receipts to those who donated the items, ultimately helping “kids in need get into tennis.”
Abadir’s beginnings in tennis also come from his family. He sometimes practices at Lancaster Country Club, where he’s a third-generation member, following in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather and his mother, Victoria Abadir, the latter also a McCaskey alum.
Abadir’s father, Essam, played high school tennis in New York.
“I think tennis picked up for me when I was around seven years old,” Nile Abadir said. “I dropped soccer and swimming around when I was 10. ... I decided that I love tennis too much.”
It was also around that time in Abadir’s life when he came to his first crossroads with the sport, appearing disinterested while competing in a tournament.
“What’s going on?” his father asked.
“Dad, why are we here?” Nile asked.
“These coaches said you have to play these tournaments in order to make progress,” Essam Abadir said.
“I want to be back home,” Nile said. “I miss my friends.”
From that point forward, Essam and Victoria Abadir made the decision to limit their son’s weekly hours on the court to whatever his age was at the moment. For example, Nile, who recently celebrated his 16th birthday, may now spend a maximum of 16 hours a week on the court.
“You don’t have to be on the court 40 hours a week,” Essam Abadir said. “You don’t have to be No. 1 in the country now. If your goal is to be the best in the country when you’re 22, that’s six years away. Don’t rush through life.”
The next crossroads came when Nile Abadir was easing up on his opponents because he felt bad beating them.
“He cares so much about other people,” Lancaster Country Club coach Michael Jordan said. “How they feel and how they think. One of the things I try to instill in him is he has to be more selfish. ... He’s very different now, but when he was younger I would tell him, ‘You pummel (the opponent), then come off the court and be their best friend. They’ll look up to you because you’re so talented. Be their friend in that way and be a role model.’”
According to Essam Abadir, Nile was, “insanely active” as a child.
“It was hell to keep up with him,” he said. “It was exhausting.”
It makes sense, then, that the younger Abadir now prefers to play all over the court.
“I don’t like just standing back on the baseline,” he said. “I love coming to the net, attacking, big serves, making it exciting for myself and hopefully for the people watching.”
One of his two serves has been clocked at 125 miles per hour. It’s a shot he’s been fine-tuning since he was a child. A shot that’s been made stronger through strength training under the instruction of McCaskey alum Russ McDonnell, the founder and owner of Fortius, a training and rehabilitation facility in East Hempfield Township.
“When I first met Nile he came here with patellar tendinitis, achy knees, elbows and back,” McDonnell recalled. “Tennis players play year-round. There’s constant wear and tear on their bodies. ... We have to go back to square one to learn how to move through that range of motion so it doesn’t tear you apart. … He’s learning to harness that power so it doesn’t beat him up.”
Like the Nile River flowing from south to north, Abadir’s tennis career is on an upward trajectory. How far could he go?
“His potential is as high as he wants it to be,” Jordan said. “Barring injury or anything like that, I don’t think burnout is an issue with Nile.”
And why is that? What propels Nile Abadir to pull himself out of bed early for tennis lessons before school? How is he able to juggle tennis, strength training, an immense courseload of schoolwork and a nonprofit?
“I want to achieve something unique,” he said. “I want to do something different with my life. Whether that’s with school or tennis, I like to push myself as much as I can.”