SINGAPORE - One team were eyeing their third straight title while the other were gunning for revenge.
Much was at stake for the Schools National B Division boys' tennis final between defending champions Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and last year's beaten finalists Raffles Institution (RI) at the Kallang Tennis Centre on Wednesday (Feb 7) morning.
RI took the lead through the first singles, lost the first doubles before regaining the lead by winning the second doubles.
It was left to Timothy Lim to deliver the winning point in the second singles. The 16-year-old did it in style, coming from a set down to beat Caleb Tay 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 to seal RI's first B boys' title since 2012.
ACS(I) won the inconsequential fifth match for a 2-3 final score, the same as in the 2017 final.
Said Timothy: "I'm in Year 4, my last year in RI, so I guess we saved the best for last."
He was in control from the start, cruising to a 5-2 lead.
But nerves and boisterous cheers from rival supporters threw him off his game as he dropped the next five games and the set. But he regained his composure to win the next two sets to seal victory.
"I thought there was a chance I might lose (the match) after the first set. I got nervous and was affected by the cheering," he said.
"But when I found out we needed just one more point to win the title, I pushed on and brought my game back to how I started."
RI coach Weber Oh attributed the success to his players' fitness levels - and ability to excel under pressure, which he helped them build up through his training methods.
"The one thing the boys never liked me for is my tough training," he said. "When we do drills and a player doesn't hit certain goals, his friends get punished, not him, which makes him feel guilty.
"If you're not strong up there, you cannot win."
Losing captain Takeshi Koey was proud of his team.
"We did great, we didn't give up and continued fighting all the way," said the 16-year-old. "We won one doubles match this year when we lost both last year, so that's a great improvement."
Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) and St Patrick's School were third and fourth respectively.
Methodist Girls' School (MGS) upset defending champions Raffles Girls' School to regain the B title they last won in 2015.
Led by two singles players Deanne Choo and Trisha Mulani from the national junior team, MGS emerged comfortable 4-1 winners.
Said MGS coach Ang Hock Chai: "We told the girls that if they are the favourites, they have to play like they are the favourites, which they did."