Tennis Diary: Hawaii is not Paradise for Women’s Tennis

The sun was not even up when my team and I got into the Super Shuttle on Wednesday morning at 6:15, but we were all awake and excited since we were about to travel to Hawaii, a place where most of us had never been before. It sounded like a small heaven lost in the Pacific Ocean.

After five hours spent on the plane, we finally got to Honolulu—main city of O’ahu—at noon. The warmth and humidity hit us and we all found it hard to breathe in this environment, but we had no other choice than to get used to it as soon as we could since our first game against the University of Hawai’i was three hours later.

Women's Tennis
The women’s tennis team poses together on the beaches of Waikiki, in front of Diamondhead Crater. (Photo courtesy of Jesse Mekpoh)

We picked up our van, got a quick lunch and rushed to the UH’s tennis courts to warm up. We started with singles and as I was playing. I only saw the end of the No.1, Julia Wartenburger, and No. 2’s, Cecile Duriez, match. Both of them had really tight games against solid opponents and they lost in the third set after two and a half hours. Sophomore Yurie Hashigutchi had a good first set but lost, 6-4, and then she let her opponent take control of the game which led Hashigutchi to lose 6-0 in the second set. Senior Cecilia Gratian did not feel comfortable during her game and could not play the way she was used to, and logically lost 6-4, 6-2. Junior Ali McMahon, coming back from a wrist injury, had troubles hitting her backhands which handicapped her and helped her opponent win 6-3, 6-2. I played a good match against an opponent who made too many mistakes to win; I played smart which made me win easily, 6-2, 6-2.

In doubles, only the No. 3 pair, Hashigutchi-Duriez, won after one of their opponents twisted her ankle and had to give up on the second game. The first doubles pair, Wartenburger-Akerbrant, pulled out a really good match against a very skillful, strong, and confident Hawaiian doubles team; this was a close match and my teammates only lost 8-6. The No. 2 doubles team, represented by Gratian and Blair Reed, had a really good start, leading 4-0 in 15 minutes, until they started making more mistakes while their opponents were being more precise. They ended up losing 8-5.

The next day, we played Brigham Young University (BYU), Utah at 11 a.m.; it was already really warm—83 degrees. This time, we started with doubles. Once again, the No. 3 doubles played amazingly well, showing consistency, skill, and communication, and won 8-2. This was not the case for the pair, Wartenburger-Akerbrant, who had a hard time communicating and being consistent against clever and skillful opponents; they lost without even winning one game. The No. 2 doubles did not do good in the execution and after finishing the points, which was not enough to win, they ended up losing 8-3.

Again, I was unable to see most of the singles matches, as I was playing myself. I had a tough match; I could not move and anticipate very well on the court and I was being less consistent than I had been the previous day. My opponent saw my weakness and kept placing the ball where I wasn’t, which tired me even more—I lost 6-3, 6-3. After a slow start and  after losing the first set 6-2, Gratian found her game back and gave her opponent a hard time, making her fight to win the second set 6-4. Hashigutchi just had a bad day, and was never able to find a solution to make her opponent fail; my teammate lost quickly and easily—6-1, 6-0. McMahon was unhappy with her match and told me she did not have enough guts to scare her opponent, and went down on herself—she lost 6/3-6/1.

Wartenburger had a tough game because she played a girl that had a game style my teammate hated: she was slicing and putting top spin on Wartenburger’s backhand – which is not her strongest shot – and she played using a serve-volley technique; but Wartenburger remained calm and tried her best even though she lost 6-2, 6-3. Finally, Duriez had a tight match; after winning the first set 6-2 by overwhelming her opponent with powerful shots, she started making more mistakes which made her opponent feel more confident and more successful; Duriez lost the second set 6-3. By the time the last match happened BYU had already won; they played a super tie-breaker in 10 points that happened to be very intense and tight, but my teammate lost it 11-9.

These were two tough losses, but as it is only the beginning of the season and that most of us played well during this long weekend, coach Hilary Somers was confident for the upcoming matches. “There’s no doubt that these losses suck and that we should feel upset about it, but we also have to remember how we play and the way we improved since last semester or even last year,” she said. “We have to keep the same competitive mentality against Santa Clara and UC Davis next weekend.”

Jessy Mekpoh is a member of the women’s tennis team.
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