Hall, Friesen endure trying times together

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 6, 2013 

10 2A GTEN subd

Sehome's Simone Hall and Lizzie Friesen, left, exchange handshakes after scoring a point during their doubles match in the 2A North Sub-District Tennis Tournament at Sehome High on Thursday, May 9, 2013 in Bellingham.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Simone Hall's left elbow was swollen, but pain ceased to exist.

She had fallen trying to kill a spider a few days before the Class 2A District girls' tennis tournament in mid-May, and its bulky composition wasn't deflating, warranting some semblance of concern.

A visit to her doctor followed, ending with an uncertain walk away from the X-ray machine that just took an image of her elbow. The results took a day or two, but she already knew her immediate tennis future was iffy at best.

"I think from the get-go, I realized, because I woke up and it was so swollen, that I probably wouldn't be able to play (at Districts)," she said in a phone interview.

But hope still existed, if not from her, from her Sehome teammate and doubles partner, Lizzie Friesen.

What affected one affected them both, and Friesen, like Hall, waited patiently to find out how badly Hall's elbow was injured.

Finally, though, the news came. Hall had fractured her elbow, and the pairing, after just winning Class 2A Sub-Districts, would not be able to continue their winning ways in a bid for a state championship.

"I was really surprised," Friesen said in a phone interview upon learning of Hall's fractured elbow. "The last time we talked to our coach was about moving on and keeping our excitement and that we had a lot of momentum, so it was really sudden and unexpected."

Hall was equally as dejected despite her best efforts to keep things in perspective.

"I realized she'll be a sophomore and I'll be a junior, so we still have a lot of time to play, and play in season," Hall said. "It wasn't anything like, 'This is my last chance.' It was only the beginning."

Hall's elbow has since healed from what she said was a "clean break," so much so that she and Friesen will compete in the Bellingham City Challenger from Aug. 9-11 at the Bellingham Tennis club. Hall and Friesen will be competing in the women's open as opposed to the Junior Challenger because their age group - 16 years old - had only one other group register.

While neither expect much from the tournament, it is yet another precious opportunity for the two to play together in the doubles format, something both were fairly unfamiliar with when thrust into a partnership late in the 2013 season.

They had only a week or so to prepare for their first doubles match, and their lack of chemistry showed.

"(Sehome coach Bonna Giller) said it was like watching two singles players having to share the same court," Friesen said. "Playing doubles was new for us."

The two lost, sparking a fork-in-the-road moment. They chose to make the best of a bad situation and move forward.

"I think it was good for us because it made us realize that we couldn't keep going like that," she said. "Made us realize we needed to figure things out."

The main thing was their communication. When playing in a singles format, Hall said, one must only rely on themselves. Doubles offers an entirely new dynamic.

"You have to talk a lot more, and it is much more keeping your partner up and playing to their strengths," Hall said.

Communication being the most pivotal component to a successful doubles team.

"You need to know what the other player is trying to do, or what their strategy is," she said. "If you don't know, then it will be easy for the other team to see that and they can start shooting it down the middle ... it really gets in between a team."

With such little preparation time before sub districts, Hall and Friesen took to working together outside the confines of Sehome's practice courts.

They started talking a lot more about strategy while also employing the use of some interesting training techniques to get more comfortable with one another on the same court.

"It would focus on how we would move together," Friesen said of the drill. "We would have these imaginary partners. We wanted to practice communicating, so we would have to practice communicating figuring out where we were running and where we were going."

The practice paid immediate dividends, with the duo besting their Sehome teammates, Andrea Clawson and Lauren Smith in the semifinals at sub-districts en route to a finals win.

Their success had been swift and sudden, a shock to them both.

"Nobody really saw it coming," Friesen said of their success. "But we knew we were a good team."

The beauty of doubles is that neither is greater than the sum of the parts. They both bring their own unique skill sets, but when on the court together, they share the same mentality.

"Our big thing was to never look back on a point," Friesen said. "Never think about it, whether it was a good point or a bad point. ... If we win a point or lose a point, we come together and say, 'here is the next point. Let's go for this one."

BELLINGHAM CITY OPEN TENNIS TOURNAMENT

Where: Bellingham Tennis Club

When: August 9-11

Matches start at 9 a.m.

Junior Challenger

When: August 7-9

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