School sports: Raffles Girls’ School are tennis champions again

Kaira Tan (facing camera) and Kayleigh Lim of RGS soaking in the cheers from supporters at the Yio Chu Kang Squash and Tennis Centre on March 27, 2023. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE – Rain may have halted play in the B Division girls’ tennis final at the Yio Chu Kang Squash and Tennis Centre on Monday, but it did not matter as defending champions Raffles Girls’ School (RGS) stormed to a second consecutive title after defeating rivals Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) 3-0.

But what made the victory even sweeter were the screams and cheers they heard on court as supporters made a return to the tennis competition – a year after Covid-19 restrictions on crowd numbers saw only a handful of spectators witness RGS claim their first B Division title since 2017.

This time, about 60 supporters from both schools came carrying colourful banners, signs and balloons, as they rallied behind their teams by chanting school cheers from courtside.

“We had some classmates miss school to come. The atmosphere was definitely different this year,” said RGS’ Kaira Tan, who partnered Kayleigh Lim in the doubles to beat Diya Sawney and Natalie Ong 6-2, 6-1.

Kayleigh added: “When we lose a point, then we hear the cheers from our friends in the audience, that helps us shake it off.”

In addition to the doubles win, Abigail Elham defeated Shirleen Ho 6-0, 6-2 in the second singles, while Krystal Lim beat Gwyneth Khng 6-0, 6-2 in the third singles to secure RGS’ 3-0 victory.

Two matches, the first singles and doubles, were halted owing to heavy rain, with play to resume on Tuesday morning.

Joanna Hee lost the first set and was 3-2 down in the second against MGS’ Erin Lee before play was interrupted. RGS doubles pair Sonia Loke and Hannah Yeo took the first set 6-2 against MGS’ Faith Tay and Nadine Wong, but were down 4-5 in the second set before the rain delay.

Joanna, 15, said: “Hearing my teacher informing me that my team already won, I felt really proud. I felt free to play my own game. I wasn’t so stressed any more.”

RGS coach Gary Tan said: “It’s a very well-bonded team that we’ve built. The result on court is an extension of their team spirit.”

One example of the team’s close bond is doubles partners Kaira and Kayleigh, who have played together for five years – even before they became schoolmates. They have been classmates at RGS for four years and their friendship extends beyond the tennis court.

“It’s nice that we were able to join the same school, because we’re now both able to improve together and build on each other’s strengths,” said Kaira.

Kaira Tan and Kayleigh Lim of RGS in their doubles match against Diya Ann Sawney and Natalie Ong of MGS in the B division girls’ tennis finals. The pair from RGS won 6-2, 6-1. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Despite missing out on the team gold, MGS captain Diya was proud that her team had qualified for the final after failing to reach the semi-finals in 2022.

She said: “As much as I’m disappointed, we worked very hard to get here. This is a great improvement from last year. RGS are a very strong team so we can lose to them without any embarrassment.

“For the matches we’re playing (on Tuesday), we’re still going to try our best to make it a 3-2 loss.”

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