Serves of Steel: A Sterling Performance at the Tennis (Boys) Finals

Reading Time: 6 minutes

By Arissa Binte Kamaruzaman (24A01A), Chandrasekan Shreya (24S06A), Fiona Ting (24S06A) and Michelle Lee (24A01A)

Rafflesians supporters with their fists raised, before a resounding medley of cheers. 

A blur of Rafflesians donned in green, black and white flocked to Yio Chu Kang stadium to support their A Division Tennis Boys’ team on the morning of 12th May 2023.

Both players and spectators shared the well-deserved excitement of securing a spot in the Tennis NSG finals, playing against Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) (ACSI). For the Rafflesian players, who had worked hard in preparation for the face-off against the defending champions of seven years, this was the time for them to prove their mettle.

The tennis players braved a sweltering morning at the A Division Finals. 

Spectators lined the fences, cheering on as the games occurred concurrently across all four courts. Flashes of yellow bounded across the courts, occasionally flying high up into the air; a blink of the eye, and you might have missed a rally. 

Eyes furrowed and backs scorched from the heat, the Tennis boys went blow for blow, match point for match point—unwilling to give up the fight. There was grit in every serve returned to an opponent, in every elegant run across the court for the ball, and even in the way they rested between sets. 

Smashing Singles 

In the first matches of the morning, the singles players were faced with a strong challenge from their skilful ACSI opponents.

There was a palpable silence amongst the supporters as their eyes flitted to and fro, following the serves of Ishan Sinha (24S03H) and Aidan Thng (24S06P), who worked hard to match the skilful swerves of their rivals’ rackets.

Both of them bore a pose of deep concentration, aware of even the slightest shift in speed and angle of the ball. They held their resolve, shoes distinctly squeaking as they bounded across the court, determined to receive every ball–even if it sent them stumbling into the fenced boundaries.

Though eager to set the pace, victory still eluded both Ishan and Aidan, with their final scores being 0-6, 2-6, and 1-6, 1-6 respectively. 

Dynamic Duos

The doubles matches were a testament to each duo’s synergy and trust, with the distinct ‘clang’ of rackets after each set akin to a steady clap on the back to press on. On the singles courts, the players’ steely resolve and sharp gazes held firm throughout each game, no matter the outcome. Close by stood the Tennis Girls, unfailingly chanting encouragement as the games progressed. 

Eager screams of “LET’S GO RAFFLES, LET’S GO!” rallied the players on, as the game reached its peak. Faced with a close fight in their first set, narrowly losing at a score of 6-7, Matthew Fangiono (23S07A) and Kaleb Khoo (24S03G) managed to regain their footing in the next few sets. 

Their coach and teammates watched them from just outside the court with their eyes shifting nervously. But at every point scored, their faces would light up and their eyes would widen with joy.

It was a test of patience for sure—every point scored seemed to be cleverly matched by their opponent. But if there was one thing that this team knew, it was how not to crack under pressure. How to take every swerve and every shot with acceptance—not of defeat, but of a fighting chance to come back up again. And fought, they did; Matthew and Kaleb did the team proud by winning their final two sets, at a score of 6-4 and 6-3. 

Matthew Fangiono (23S07A) and Kaleb Khoo (24S03G) made their team proud by winning their doubles match. 

A few courts away, Ivan Loh (23S06R) and Tng Shih Chun (24S03O), spurred on by the excitement of their teammates’ win, maintained a score of 6-3 in their first two sets — culminating in their roaring finish of which they claimed a second doubles’ win. 

The Decider: A Game of Grit

As the other games came to a close, spectators began flocking to the final game: a singles match, played by Ethan Loh (23S03K). It was the deciding match of whether the team would return with a victory or defeat, and the pressure was on. Every moment of the game, down to a mere step (or misstep, for that matter), would lead Raffles to claim either a resounding, victorious gold trophy, or a nonetheless well-earned silver one. 

There was a palpable silence as Ethan pushed through the final sets of his game. His racket was always ready to receive, even as his legs were visibly strained by the effort of keeping up with the fast-paced game. With the overwhelming support of his team and schoolmates, who cheered him on after every point scored, he demonstrated an indomitable fighting spirit. 

A snapshot of the deciding game: players holding their resolve, spectators holding their breaths.

However, as the game progressed, the crowd’s encouragement was increasingly riddled with worried murmurs. It had been an hour and forty-five minutes of unrelenting rallies under the burning sun, and had turned into a game of endurance.

It was clear that Ethan’s leg was cramping up, and the pain was evident on his face. Between sets, he attempted to ease the pain, stretching his leg out as one of his teammates—one of the ball boys—looked over at him in concern.

Indeed, when asked about the best moment of the match, team captain Ivan Loh (23S06R) recalls it to be one the most painful, and yet heartwarming scenes of that very last game.

“Watching our teammate Ethan cramp up in his legs in the deciding match was painful, but we were in awe as he fought on for another hour through the cramps, displaying fierce passion and Rafflesian fighting spirit.” 

Ivan Loh, captain of Tennis Boys

Despite the match ending in a defeat, it was a tremendous display of Ethan’s resilience, as he continued meeting rally after rally, no matter the outcome.

Supporters cheering Ethan on, as he scores a point in the deciding game of the tournament

Looking back: A long, well-fought season

Though the team had a rocky journey throughout the season, they were able to overcome  their initial doubts and uncertainties through empowering themselves with their shared passion for the sport and the perseverance to give the best of themselves to every match. 

Their coach shared how proud he was of the players, and the sheer, unwavering perseverance they had carried with them throughout the entire season, not just in the finals. They had played against ACSI in the quarter-finals, and had expected strong opponents during the finals—but they too brought forth a worthy challenge in their well-played matches that day. 

From the way the boys cheered for their teammates at the very top of their lungs for every single point scored, and supported those who were injured, there is no doubt that this is not just a team of athletes who play with each other on the court. Instead, they embody the true essence of sports: bringing together a community of supportive, uplifting individuals who inspire one another to grow better and stronger. 

The players at the awards ceremony, following a long season of well-fought matches.

Tennis may seem just like a ball’s restless dance between one’s racket to one’s opponent’s, but at its core, it is a game for those who can survive and thrive amidst pressure; and our Tennis team has proven, time and time again, that this is at the heart of what they do. 

RI emerged with an overall second place, growing from strength to strength at every twist and turn of the tournament, and proving that they would not end the season without one last, well-played fight.

Tennis Boys’ – Finals Line-Up
First Singles – Aidan Thng (24S06P) 
Second Singles – Ethan Loh (23S03K) 
Third Singles – Ishan Sinha (24S03H) 
First Doubles –  Matthew Fangiono (23S07A), Kaleb Khoo (24S03G)
Second Doubles – Ivan Loh (23S06R), Tng Shih Chun (24S03O)

Captain and Coaches
Captain – Ivan Loh (23S06R)
Coaches – Weber Oh, William Tan 

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