Tennis champs hold onto Far East titles
November 5, 2015
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Courts 2 and 3 at the Risner Tennis Complex once more proved to be title-run staging grounds for the Far East tournament singles champions.
Seniors Lili Kobayashi of American School In Japan and Marius Ruh of St. Mary’s International repeated their singles titles on the very same courts where they first triumphed a year ago. The victories were rematches of last week’s Kanto Plain finals.
Overcoming a rain delay of 3 hours, 25 minutes, Kobayashi downed her chief Kanto nemesis, Matilde Piras of Seisen International, 6-4, 6-2, reversing the Kanto finals outcome. Meanwhile Ruh took down fellow senior teammate Juan Borga 6-1, 6-2, mirroring the Kanto finals result.
Piras had seemed to be the bane of Kobayashi’s existence, having beaten her in the last two Kanto finals, including last week’s 6-3, 7-5 victory, and all three times the two played this season.
“Losing to her three times, I was really determined to win today,” Kobayashi said, crediting the support of her teammates for helping her to victory.
Having played tentatively, she said, in the first three go-rounds with Piras, Kobayashi said she told herself to play “more aggressively” in Thursday’s matchup, adding that she felt more confident going to the net than she did previously.
“I had nothing to lose. I gave it my all,” Kobayashi said.
While Kobayashi played more aggressively, Piras said she felt her attack shots “weren’t working” and her shots were much more flat on Thursday.
“It was really hard” playing Kobayashi, Piras said. “I was happy that I managed to get six games off her.”
Kobayashi won the first of her two Far East singles titles last November when she topped Seoul American’s Grace Cho in straight sets. Cho took third this year, beating Seisen’s Ana Clara Borga 8-5.
“I’m disappointed in my play yesterday” in Wednesday’s 6-1, 6-1 semifinal loss to Piras, Cho said. “Of all days, that was the most important day. But I’m glad I finished with a win today.”
On the boys side, “it was difficult, playing my best friend and teammate,” Ruh said of having to face Borga.
Ruh beat ASIJ’s Len Kamemoto in straight sets in last year’s singles final. He termed Thursday’s victory as “something special.”
“In that moment, he’s (Borga) an opponent, but I don’t feel like he’s an opponent,” Ruh said.
And just as Ruh and Kobayashi repeated their singles titles, so, too, did St. Mary’s and ASIJ win their respective Division I boys and girls team titles. The Mustangs won the D-I overall school banner for the second straight year as well.
On the Division II side, Yokota won the overall school banner plus the girls team title in its first go as a small school. That makes eight of 11 available D-II titles for the Panthers since they moved to D-II last Nov. 18. E.J. King repeated its boys D-II team title of a year ago.
ASIJ’s Leon Hoy and Erin Chang took the mixed-doubles title, beating teammates Kaisei Sato and Erin Blank in three sets. The boys doubles title went to Kamemoto and Noah Inahara of ASIJ, who beat Ruh and Ken Senkoff of St. Mary’s in three sets.
The girls doubles final did not finish due to a second rain delay that hit at 7:11 p.m.
Play was suspended for the night with Kobayashi and partner Nana Yoshimura leading Piras and Ana Clara Borga 4-3 at one set each in the third. The match will likely be finished sometime next week in Tokyo, where both schools are based.