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ACS (I) secure seventh straight A Div tennis title after injury forces RI’s Ethan Loh to retire in decider

SINGAPORE – Just as Raffles Institution (RI)’s hopes of winning an elusive A Division boys’ title were rekindled after a spirited comeback, singles player Ethan Loh, 17, pulled up with a cramp that ended their hopes of beating defending champions Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) at Yio Chu Kang Tennis Centre on Friday.

In the process, ACS (I) clinched their seventh straight title in the competition, securing the double after having won the B Division crown in March.

RI, who lost 5-0 to ACS (I) in the quarter-finals, put up a closer fight this time around, winning both doubles matches to tie the score at 2-2.

The stage was then set for Ethan and ACS (I)’s Charles Yong to battle it out in the decider.

Charles won the first set 7-6 and, midway through the second set, a combination of the heat and exhaustion caused Ethan to go down and play to be paused.

Although he attempted to shrug the cramp off, it became clear that it was disrupting his performance. But he managed to hang on and take the second set 7-6.

Eventually, the cramp worsened and a limping Ethan was forced to retire while trailing 4-0 in the third set, handing ACS (I) the crown.

Ethan said: “I was disappointed but I knew I had reached my limits. It was a great match from Charles and he was the better player today.

“I always held on to the hope that my cramp would go away, (and) I was thinking of how I could win the points quicker because I couldn’t run for balls.

“At the end of the day, I know that I left everything I had on the court and there was nothing I could have done better.

“That’s how sports is and sometimes it’s just someone else’s day.”

While he was pleased with his victory, Charles also praised his opponent, saying: “I have full respect for him. Even though he was in so much pain, he still persevered and tried his best to win as many points as possible.”

ACS (I) had raced to a 2-0 lead, with Brandon Tan brushing Isham Sinha aside 6-0, 6-2 and Adithya Suresh defeating Aiden Thng 6-1, 6-1.

However, RI refused to surrender and came roaring back. The doubles pair of Ivan Loh and Tng Shih Chun came out on top against Joshua Cheng and Evan Lee 6-3, 6-3. This set up a grandstand finish as the final two matches both went into three sets.

RI pair Matthew Fangiono and Kaleb Khoo came from behind to prevail over Poon Phusangmook and Bryce Cheong 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 in the second doubles. But Ethan eventually succumbed and could not go on.

ACS (I) captain Joshua Cheng, 18, may not have won his match, but he was glad the team emerged victorious. He said: “It was a really close fight, but that made the win feel even better.”

As the favourites had won all their matches before Friday’s final, he felt there was “definitely a lot of pressure”.

“We knew Raffles would be fired up,” he said. “And to their credit, they did better than in the previous (quarter-final) round.”

On his side’s team spirit, the second-year junior college student explained: “This team is really special. We have been together since Secondary 1, all of us.”

RI captain Ivan was satisfied with his team’s “incredible fight”. The 17-year-old said: “ACS (I) are a very tough team to defeat. The fact that we pulled close, I’m very proud of the team.”