In high school tennis, it is not uncommon for singles players to switch to doubles for the postseason where they would have a better chance of success.
That means those players prepare for sectionals by playing doubles the last handful of matches in the regular season.
Head coach Ryan Vehar is doing just that with the Nordonia boys team.
Sophomores Ranbeer Bajwa and Drew Kitzmiller played first and second singles, respectively, for most of this season. Bajwa and Kitzmiller will be competing in doubles in the postseason. The two of them prepared for the postseason by playing No. 1 doubles in the Knights’ last four matches.
“Ranbeer and Drew are just getting their feet wet, and I want to see if they like that option because neither of them would ever have a chance in singles,” Vehar said. “They’re starting to play with more confidence and are starting to play better technical doubles tennis. They’re starting to hit better in that doubles scenario. They’re starting to volley better, they’re starting to hit cross court baseline shots better and they’re starting to serve better. Their games are coming together in doubles. “
After losing their first match decidedly playing together at first doubles, Bajwa and Kitzmiller won a thriller May 2 during Nordonia’s 4-1 home loss to Warren Howland. They won 4-6, 6-4, 10-6 (a match tiebreaker was played instead of a third set because the overall teams’ result was already decided).
“Ranbeer and Drew had pretty good opponents,” said Vehar. The first set was pretty close, and then all of a sudden they started playing better and that was enough to win the second set. They kept rolling into the match tiebreaker. “
Bajwa and Kitzmiller played well in winning 6-3, 6-1 May 4 during the Knights’ 4-1 defeat, also at home, to Mentor. The next day, on May 5 in Nordonia’s 4-1 victory over Suburban League crossover rival Kent Roosevelt, they lost a heartbreaker 6-1, 5-7, 10-4 (match tiebreaker). Nordonia wound up with a 3-14 record for the season.
“Kent Roosevelt also put their two best singles players up against Ranbeer and Drew, so it was a good test,” Vehar said. “Ranbeer and Drew might say they kind of left a little bit on the table in that first set. They had a few more miscuses and mishits than they had in the previous matches. They’d be the first to say they could’ve played better. They were capable of winning that match. “
Regardless of what happens this postseason, Vehar’s maneuvering of his lineup is actually preparing Bajwa and Kitzmiller for the future.
“Two years from now is more what I’m thinking than this season,” he said. “Two years from now, if Ranbeer and Drew stick with tennis and are getting better and better, they could be a formidable doubles team. It will be interesting to see what happens down the road.