FLASHBACK: PACIFIC GAMES TENNIS FINALS
On this day, one year ago, CNMI tennis players Carol Lee and Colin Sinclair delivered under pressure to win the gold medal in the mixed doubles event in the XVI Pacific Games in Apia, Samoa.
Memories of one of the toughest matches in her tennis career were still vivid on Lee’s mind that she recalled how nervous she was before and during their finals match against Papua New Guinea’s Abigail Tere-Apisah and Matthew Stubbings.
“It was a very tight finals match. I knew that it would be tough because our opponents were tough and one of them was my Fed Cup teammate—Tere-Apisah. The day was almost over, Colin had to play in his fourth game of the day and I had to play my second doubles match on that same day, too. So, lots of things were going on my mind and pressure and nervousness were definitely included on them,” Lee said.
Their nerves got the better of the CNMI pair at the start of the finale, as Tere-Apisah, the No. 1 player in the Pacific and a regular competitor in the pro Women’s Tennis Association, and Stubbings eked out a 7-6 win in the first set.
With the gold medal on the line, Lee and Sinclair regrouped in the second set and prevailed, 6-3, to force a deciding super-tiebreaker third set.
“As the match went on, I told myself that whoever plays more aggressively and wins points from a volley would win. And I think Colin and I did that more of that in the second set and in the super tiebreaker,” the former No. 1 junior player in the Pacific said.
Despite going on the offensive, the Commonwealth duo still fell behind in the make-or-break set. Tere-Apisah and Stubbings opened the last set with a 3-0 lead and then kept the upper hand at 4-2 before nearly taking the gold medal after posting a 7-5 advantage. However, Lee and Sinclair refused to give up and worked their way back into contention.
“Even though we were behind in the third, we didn’t give up and still pushed our limits. We played each point like our lives depend on it,” said Lee.
The CNMI duo went on to take the last four games to complete the come-from-behind win and hand the Commonwealth its third gold medal in the Pacific Games. Sinclair gave the Commonwealth its second gold medal earlier on the same day when he defeated Stubbings in the singles finals, 6-0, 6-1, while he, Robbie Schorr and Ken Song notched the men’s team event gold medal in Week 1 of the competition. Schorr and Sinclair also notched a silver medal in the men’s doubles, bringing the CNMI Tennis Team’s total to four.
Though it was her and Sinclair who won the gold medal in the mixed doubles, Lee said the entire tennis squad and the people back home and in Samoa who supported Team NMI should also get the credit for the victory.
“The CNMI tennis team (men’s and women’s) and other supporters made this finals victory happen. Colin and I won because part of it was from the CNMI’s team spirit, so I would like to thank all of them for being amazing,” Lee said.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association-bound Lee also acknowledged her father, Dong Min, who was not able to join her in Samoa, but was a constant inspiration and confidence-booster for her.
“I remembered my father telling me that I have to win points on my service games so every time it was my turn to serve (during the finals), I thought of him and what he said was effective,” said Lee, who will be suiting up for Division I school Georgia Tech after a successful junior career.
Joining Lee, Sinclair, Song, and Schorr on the CNMI Tennis Team were Tania Tan, Isabel Heras, Malika Miyawaki, head coach Jeff Race, and assistant coach Lydia Tan. The squad gave the CNMI its most gold medals in the history of the Commonwealth’s participation in the Pacific Games.