Working as a pair is nothing new for senior Justin Hong and junior Felix Krendl. The duo played last year’s tennis season together, forming a winning double partnership and qualifying for the 2017 tennis state tournament. “Individually they’re extremely talented but together they’re even better,” said coach Kristie Yamamoto.
This season, however, Krendl and Hong were unexpectedly paired up to play together in the middle of the season when soft tennis player senior Seth Umeda quit the team. “It was a challenge getting used to Felix’s playing at first because I was used to with my own partner,” said Hong. “We were paired up towards the end of the season. It was a hurdle to get used to the way Felix plays… I just had to get used to that.”
This minor setback didn’t stop the pair from working hard at practice and developing new techniques to prepare for matches. “I think it was a little bit of a struggle for Felix because he had to change his mentality on how he was playing…When he plays with Justin he has to play more of the net player role,” said Yamamoto.
Despite having to adjust to their new positions, it is evident that Hong and Krendl make a strong team. They have learned to work so that they make up for skills the other lacks. “My forehand is strong, so [Felix] lets me get all the forehands… but my backhand is not the strongest. Anytime the ball comes to my backhand he tries to intercept it,” said Hong.
The technical part of soft tennis isn’t the only aspect where the pair support each other. Hong and Krendl communicate and are honest with each other so that they “click” at matches. “They can take criticism from each other and they don’t take it personally. They understand that it’s part of the match, it’s part of the game,” said Yamamoto. “When they give each other advice they know that it’s match time and time to focus and it’s different from friendship.”
On Oct. 9, at Waipahu High School, Hong and Krendl won 1st place at the OIA Doubles Championships, ending the season. “Coach told the team at the beginning of the season that hard work pays off. [This] win set a reminder that hard work does truly pay off,” said Hong.