Takenakas Dominate Tennis Court

By Brenda Alvarado

She stands. Her right knee bent forward, ready to go. She looks back at her doubles partner and waits for the ball to be 30-31newreturned. When it crosses the net, without hesitation, she moves to it. Her tennis skirt flies up as she swiftly moves to the ball and swats it down like a mosquito. From outside the courts, you hear Coach Kleiber shout, “Way to be there Risa, way to be there.” The previous Class 2 Champion has just scored a point for her doubles team.

Junior Risa Takenaka started playing tennis six years ago. At age 10, Risa didn’t know how mentally hard the sport was, or how someday it would win her the first State title for singles in the St. Charles County, or the 2012 All Metro-Tennis player of the year. She didn’t know much, she merely joined because her parents had also done it. All Risa knew was that she had a racket and a ball.

“I mean, I’m not really good at any other sport and I can’t really imagine my life without tennis,” Risa said.

Last season, due to her constant club training, Risa went undefeated, winning all 21 of her singles matches. She’s excited for this season because, to her, high school tennis is kind of a break. It’s not as intense or challenging as club. With this break, Risa plans on playing well. But joining Risa this year is none other than her freshman sister Yuri Takenaka.

Leaving the courts, snack in one hand, racquet in the other Yuri walks towards school. She stands at nearly the same height as her older sister, and in the light blue uniforms, the two look identical. Like her sister, she also started tennis at age 10. Although Yuri does not compete as competitively as Risa in club tennis, the two make up the number one and two players on the Girls Varsity Tennis team.

Getting this one, two spot wasn’t easy for them. On top of High School tennis practice, the two attend at least two hours of Club tennis practice for the Miller Tennis Academy. At the Miller Tennis Academy the girls must participate at least two hours a day in a four or five day program. No matter how hard it gets, they keep going.

“I think the hardest part of tennis to keep going even if you had a bad day,” Yuri said.

Another challenge for the two is simply each other. Risa and Yuri have established a sibling rivalry but they believe the competition itself is what drives them to be better–not necessarily each other.

Many believe that the sisters should go to State for doubles and place well. Then, they expect the duo to get first and second in singles. This would make FHN tennis well-known at the State level, if only it was possible.

The Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) only allows tennis players to qualify individually for one event. Both girls plan on qualifying for State individually in singles. Risa hopes to defend her title, while Yuri just plans on being there and seeing how it goes. But, there is another way for them to play together: team qualifications.

In order for the Varsity girls Tennis team to qualify for State, they must first win Districts. Then the team, consisting of the top six girls, must go on to win Section-als to finally qualify for State. In order to prepare the girls for State, coach Kleiber focuses on the intensity of the practices instead of the amount of time spent practic-ing, as well as frequently winning throughout the season with hopes to establish the FHN tennis dominance.

“You know what, my goal is to always go to State,” coach Kleiber said. “You have to practice hard. You don’t have to practice more, you just have to make quality practices when you practice.”

Risa has one win against Troy under her belt. This game is just one in the many Risa will play on her way to another State title. Although she has recently had her first loss against FZS, Risa is determined to keep her title. She’ll have to work hard this year with Yuri pushing her. To her, it’s just another game.

“If you work hard, you’ll get what you want,” Risa said.