SINGAPORE - A year ago, Brendan Hendrata cut a frustrated figure when Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) reached the semi-finals of the Schools National B Division boys' tennis championships, only to see it halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Then a Year 3 student, all he could do was hope that the tournament would proceed this year.
When it did, Brendan and his ACS(I) teammates made the most of the opportunity by regaining the title ACS(I) last won in 2017 and doing it style with a 5-0 thrashing of Victoria School (VS) on Tuesday (April 27).
Going into the final at the Kallang Tennis Centre, the 16-year-old said: "The expectation was that we should win this comfortably and I'm glad we lived up to it."
Captain Joshua Cheng added: "We had a lot of confidence in our team. Even though we were a bit nervous, we just trusted in our teammates and our abilities.
"It was by no means an easy competition but I'm happy we managed to do it and it feels very satisfying."
ACS(I) drew first blood through doubles pair Bill Chan and Adithya Suresh, who trounced Victorians Cho Tjeng Kwok and Kevin Chan 6-0, 6-0.
They then edged one step closer after Xavier Tay recorded a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Zachary Chua of VS.
Shortly after, Brandon Tan sealed the title with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Jayden Ng.
Joshua was made to work for his win after his opponent Reyes Ho came from 2-0 down and levelled the score at 4-4. Joshua eventually won 6-4, 6-1 before Brendan and Aditya Govila completed the rout with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Aidan Keh and Leonard Yew.
Joshua, 16, said: "I started well but I was feeling quite tight on my shots and a bit nervous. But I told myself to trust my game and kept playing through it. Once I won the first set, I felt a bit more confident and after that I was able to hit through a lot more.
"It's really fortunate that tennis could go on this year (in the National School Games) because a lot of sports weren't able to happen so I'm happy that we could finish on top."
The venue would usually have been full of parents, teachers and students cheering the players on but no spectators were allowed because of safe management measures. Aditya admitted the atmosphere was subdued but said he had relied on the support of his teammates and teachers present instead.
Despite the loss, VS captain Zachary was proud that his school reached the final for the first time in over a decade.
He said: "It's a good feeling to get into the top four but getting into the final was a bonus. We were quite calm and we didn't really expect to win so we just did our best and played like how we normally do."
Reyes, 15, added that being able to compete in the NSG was a good experience for him and he hopes to help his school reach the final again next year.
The Secondary 3 student said: "During the circuit breaker last year, my interest in tennis died down a bit because I wasn't able to train.
"But when we came back, my teammates and I cheered each other on and we got the motivation to train hard again. Getting to the final is a great accomplishment and I hope I can do it again next year."
In the B Division girls’ final, Singapore Chinese Girls’ School dethroned defending champions Methodist Girls’ School, clinching the title with a 3-2 victory.