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Tigers double up and find success

Boys tennis: Seniors Cole Johnson and Justin Kau pick up another win in No. 1 doubles play
by: JOHN LARIVIERE, FOREHAND BLAST — Tigard High School senior Justin Kau hits a shot during the No. 1 doubles contest in the Tigers’ match at Westview last Thursday.

ROCK CREEK - Both Cole Johnson and Justin Kau see themselves as singles players. Tigard boys tennis coach Ryan Denning had a different idea.

He suggested the pair join forces for their senior seasons. The result has been better than expected with Johnson and Kau improving to a 2-2 record in preseason play after a hard-fought victory last Thursday at Westview High School

'Coach says we have a good 1-2 punch,' said Kau, who played No. 3 singles last year.

'He has the big serve and I'm quick at the net,' Johnson added. 'We've been training all offseason to play together.'

The work paid of Thursday as the Tigers' No. 1 doubles team beat their Wildcats counterparts Mike Reimann and Minje Shin 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) to earn one of two victories by Tigard in its 6-2 non-league loss.

'Coach suggested we play No. 1 doubles and it's worked out,' Johnson said. 'Now we wonder why we didn't see it earlier.'

Brothers Louis and Jeff Rogers teamed for the Tigers' first victory of the afternoon, winning 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles against Westview seniors Shanik Fernando and Bobby Sankhagowit.

The Wildcats swept through singles play, winning each match in straight sets. Westview also completed wins at No. 3 and 4 doubles, leaving Johnson and Kau to battle in the final remaining match of the afternoon - and its closest.

Tigard's top duo was consistent in winning the first set 6-4, but found themselves playing from behind nearly all of the second set after trailing 3-0 early.

'That's when we realized this is stupid.,' Kau said. 'It shouldn't be that way.'

They battled back but still were behind 5-4 in the second set. Westview had a chance to break Kau's serve and force a third set after moving ahead 30-love. But Johnson had a putaway at the net and the Wildcats' returned Kau's powerful serve long. Moments later, Westview hit long again and the set was tied 5-5.

'We got a little relaxed after winning the first set.' Johnson said.

'We had to wake up again,' Kau added.

Tigard lost the next game but didn't drop a point in the following to make it 6-6 and force a 'first to 7' tiebreaker. There, Johnson and Kau took over.

The pair won the first six points as the Wildcats fell apart. Kau and Shin battled forehand shots from the baseline before Johnson's overhead putaway at the net made it 3-0. Three errors later, Tigard had match point.

'After the first few points of the tiebreaker, we knew we had the momentum and could take it,' Johnson said. 'We didn't want to go to a third set. I was tired.'

Westview delayed the victory on Shin's cross-court winner before the Wildcats hit long and the Tigers earned their second victory against the Metro League opponent.

The transformation into a strong doubles team has been quite a process for Johnson and Kau, who want to earn the No. 1 seed and win the Pacific Conference district tournament.

'Our first year we weren't that good,' Kau said.

'We definitely both improved our individual skills,' Johnson added. 'We practiced together a lot in the fall, mainly playing against each other.'