They never thought they would be a team, which explained why there were eyebrows raised when Chelsea Wee and Zhang Hanyu were named as a doubles pair for the Methodist Girls' School (MGS) C Division tennis squad last month.
It proved a masterstroke, after the fledgling partnership came through a tough test at the Yio Chu Kang tennis courts during the National C Division Girls' final yesterday.
The MGS pair were trailing 2-4 in the second set behind Raffles Girls' School (RGS) opponents Tammy Tan and Nicole Ng, but Chelsea and Hanyu eventually came through 6-1, 7-5 to even the overall score at 2-2, before Natasha Loh and Emma Collins clinched the crown for their school after they beat Manali Patil and Sarah Rahman 7-6, 6-2 in the decider to dethrone the defending champions.
Despite only training for a month as a doubles pair, Chelsea and Hanyu, both 14, attributed the success of their partnership to a combination of trust, communication and good chemistry.
Praising her partner's volleying skills, Chelsea said: "Hanyu is very good at volleying, and she's even better when she's confident."
Hanyu admitted she had initially thought Chelsea was "unapproachable", after losing to her in the Singapore Tennis Association SPEX Under-10 final in 2011.
"Chelsea looked so fierce! I never thought I would end up being her partner," said Hanyu, after the win.
But Chelsea quickly added: "But we work well together and we want to continue being partners next year!"
It was a closely-fought affair from the start, with RGS firmly in the driver's seat after singles players Tessa Wong and Jeovanne Poernomo romped to easy wins over their opponents.
But in the third singles, RGS' Sin Su-Wen, who was battling illness, retired after a valiant effort against MGS' Nadine Loh.
The two doubles pairs from MGS then exacted revenge for last year's finals defeat - their first title lost in the competition in seven years - against the same opponents, ensuring there would be no back-to-back titles for their rivals.
The MGS team had been training hard to avenge the loss, although Natasha insisted that revenge was never the primary motivation.
"We wanted revenge, but our priority was to enjoy the match and have fun," said the 14-year-old. "I'm really proud we managed to bring glory to the team, because we didn't expect to win."
While she admitted to feeling the pressure when the overall score was at 2-2, Natasha handled the strain by "blocking everything out and focusing on the match".
Raffles' coach Gary Tan congratulated MGS on their "double win", after the school also clinched the B Division title last month He also praised his outfit, when he said: "They played their hearts out today and we'll build on the positives to go one better next year.
"Kudos to MGS on their double win; they did it this year, but we can do it next year."
National C Division Tennis results:
Girls: 1st: Methodist Girls' School
2nd: Raffles Girls' School
3rd: CHIJ Secondary (Toa Payoh)
4th: Nanyang Girls' High School
Boys: 1st: Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)
2nd: Raffles Institution
3rd: Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road)
4th: Victoria School
This article was first published on April 16, 2015.
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