By Lara Tan (22A01B) and Lim Zhi Qi Victoria (23S06B)
Photos courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society.
“One point at a time.”
That frequent utterance from teammates watching from the sidelines was a rather apt description of the game we were about to watch: a game of endurance, mental fortitude and strategy.
At 8am on Thursday, the 12th of May, Raffles Press headed down to the A Div Girls’ Tennis Finals to witness the showdown between RI and Hwa Chong.
Despite the early start, the venue was already crowded with delegations from Hwa Chong and RI, along with droves of supportive parents, teachers and coaches. With no spectator stands, everyone had to pick their spots on the surrounding hilly terrain, and try to avoid the unforgiving sun that was slowly creeping up on them.
Leading up to the finals, the RI team was on a roll, having won all matches till that point. Hwa Chong had a similar track record, so both sides knew it would be a tough fight.
The 1st singles match saw Deborah Lim (23S06I) with the ball entirely in her court. With utter ease, she took the first set. Her opponent was unrelenting and fought hard, shouting at the top of her lungs with every point won to encourage herself. Still, Deborah remained calm and composed, emerging victorious with a scoreline of 6-2, 6-0.
On court 2, the middle court of three ongoing matches, doubles pair Kyra Jane Yip Min Li (22S03O) and Amber Larraine Richards (22S06F) worked in tandem, communicating with each other and high-fiving between points. Their opponents proved to be a difficult pair to defeat, but with the cheers from friends and teammates, they put up a good fight, losing the first set narrowly with a score of 5-7. However, they eventually left the court crestfallen with a game score of 2-6 in the second set.
On the court next to them, many supporters had crowded near the fence to watch the 2nd doubles match. Having dropped the first set 3-6, Natania Joy Tan Jia Huan (22S07A) and Joy Nicole Lim (23S07A) were determined to fight back in the second set. They improved on their consistency and kept balls in, which made their opponents make more mistakes.
The second set eventually went into a nerve-wrecking tiebreak, with long rallies and volleys back and forth. Despite their best efforts, the doubles pair lost the tiebreak and as such the match, leaving them downhearted as they stepped off the court. The pair gave each other a hug after the match and reassured one another that they had fought well, which they indeed had.
One singles match, that was unfortunately overshadowed by the drama of the adjacent courts, was played by Tay Ee Shuen Megan (22S03D). Her match was by no means less exciting though; having won 9 games in a row despite losing her first set, Megan was poised to overtake her opponent, who showed signs of fatigue.
However, something unexpected was to follow. After complaining of a leg cramp, Megan’s opponent collapsed to the ground in pain, appearing to have fallen mid-play. Despite the medical attention she received from the coaches and umpire, she ultimately felt unable to proceed with the match.
The match therefore went to Megan in a walkover. Despite the relieving outcome, Megan displayed commendable sportsmanship and graciousness, offering her opponent a drink and staying by her side in commiseration.
This gave RI another game in hand, and with the outcome of the final singles match still uncertain, the stakes were raised immensely. After having lost both doubles matches and won two of three singles matches, RI would need one more win to come clean with the championship, so it all boiled down to the 3rd singles.
With the cameras on her, Sarah Chan Li-Ann (23S03G) could already feel the pressure mounting. From the beginning of the match, she tried to match her opponent’s speed and strength, but eventually dropped the first set 2-6. With a fist pump, she spurred herself on to work harder in the second set, not ready to throw in the towel.
The neck-to-neck game eventually reached a score of 6-6, forcing the players into a tiebreaker. By this time, all the other matches had concluded and all spectators had gathered to watch the deciding match, cheering their hearts out for the players. The championship for RI laid in the hands of Sarah, and she knew it.
She kept her cool and played well, even fighting back a cramp in her calf. However, the speed of her opponent’s ball threw her off guard and she struggled to get it back. Eventually, she was defeated in the tiebreak and thus, the match.
With the conclusion of all the matches, the championship went to Hwa Chong. Being the first time Hwa Chong had won the Girls’ Tennis National School Games in twelve years, their glee was hardly concealable, as the players jumped and whooped in joy during the prize presentation.
Despite RI’s defeat, team captain Kyra opined that there was in fact much to learn from that day—that disappointment is part of life, no matter how excruciating or demoralising it feels.
But that’s just life. And no, this is not a lamentation about life, but rather a healthy reminder that you don’t always get what you want just because you work hard for it, especially where competition is involved. There have to be winners, just like there have to be losers.Kyra Jane Yip Min Li (22S03O)
She added, “The opponents can take away the gold medal, but they can’t take away our team spirit.”
Raffles Press would like to congratulate Girls’ Tennis for their achievement, and wish them all the best in upcoming inter-school tournaments.
Tay Ee Shuen Megan (22S03D)
Sarah Chan Li-Ann (23S03G)
Deborah Lim Li Jun (23S06I)
Joy Nicole Lim (23S07A)
Amber Larraine Richards (22S06F)
Natania Joy Tan Jia Huan (22SO7A)
Kyra Jane Yip Min Li (22S03O)