Coach's pep talk to final player ensures RI's 5-0 win

Andre Keh (left) had a nervy start to his singles match, losing the first set 6-3 before regaining his composure and claiming the next two sets 6-2, 6-2 to secure a 5-0 sweep for RI. Aneish Sawney (below) had comfortably won his match to give RI thei
Andre Keh (above) had a nervy start to his singles match, losing the first set 6-3 before regaining his composure and claiming the next two sets 6-2, 6-2 to secure a 5-0 sweep for RI.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Andre Keh (left) had a nervy start to his singles match, losing the first set 6-3 before regaining his composure and claiming the next two sets 6-2, 6-2 to secure a 5-0 sweep for RI. Aneish Sawney (below) had comfortably won his match to give RI thei
Aneish Sawney had comfortably won his match to give RI their opening point.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

His team were leading 4-0 in a best-of-five tie, and had already successfully defended their Schools National B Division boys' tennis title yesterday.

Playing in the final match at the Ministry of Education (Evans Road) courts, Raffles Institution (RI) vice-captain Andre Keh found himself trailing against Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road)'s Aaron Toh after he lost the first set 6-3.

But the 16-year-old picked himself up after a pep talk by coach Weber Oh, and won the match 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to complete RI's 5-0 thrashing of ACS (Barker), which followed their 3-2 win over Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) in last year's final.

Oh, who has been coaching RI for 22 years, said: "I expected him to win comfortably so I was watching the doubles matches.

"Then someone told me Andre was losing. I walked back and told him to relax because the rest were all winning so we didn't need him to win."

A tired-looking Andre told The Straits Times after the prize presentation that his coach's pep talk helped him calm down.

The Year 4 student said: "I was nervous. There were too many people around supporting me. But coach told me there's no pressure and to play the way I normally play. That calmed me down and I played much better after that."

RI took the lead through 16-year-old Aneish Sawney who comfortably beat ACS (Barker) captain Benjamin Oates 6-1, 6-0. Ahmad Naqib doubled RI's lead with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Jared Goh before Gareth Ong and Pierre Chng scored the winning point for the defending champions with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Aidan Lim and Keaen Lim.

Jay Tan and Ryan Loo then made it 4-0 for RI with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Sameel Sinnathuray and Luke Eng, before Andre won.

RI coach Oh attributed their victory to the boys' strong physical and mental states.

The 48-year-old said: "We're definitely very happy, the boys worked very hard.

"Physically, I push them quite hard and they don't get cramps or get tired easily.

"Also, we worked a lot on their mental strength. We made sure they're able to take pressure and know how to control their emotions so that if they're down, they don't get angry and so on."

While ACS (Barker) coach Simon Tan was disappointed with the result, he was proud of his students for reaching their first B Division final since 2016.

"Our preliminary round was very tough because we had all the stronger teams (like last year's finalists ACS (Independent)) in our group.

"The boys worked hard and did well to get themselves here. To me, that's already a big achievement and I'm very proud of them."

In the B girls' final, Methodist Girls' School also retained their title, beating Nanyang Girls' High School 4-1. They won by the same score against Raffles Girls' School last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'Coach's pep talk to final player ensures RI's 5-0 win'. Print Edition | Subscribe