Double or nothing: Kriti Sarav and Paola Almeda find success as a doubles tennis team


Matt Petres

Senior Kriti Sarav and sophomore Paola Almeda found success on the court as a doubles team. Outside of their individual competition, they have formed lasting connections with each other and the team.

Audrey Matei, Arts Editor

“U-WHAT?” the tennis seniors shout.

The rest of the team yells back: “U-NITE!”

“U-WHAT?” the seniors shout again. 

“U-FIGHT!” responds the team. 

“U-WHAT?” the seniors exclaim one last time. 

“U-HIGH!” screams the team, together. 

With the late-summer sun beating on their foreheads and an unshakable combination of nervousness and excitement beginning to erupt from their chests, girls tennis players from all grades huddle together to prepare for yet another meet.

Doubles partners Kriti Sarav, a senior, and Paola Almeda, a sophomore, paired up for the first time this season, and learning each other’s game and how to communicate helped them find success, resulting in a trip to the state finals. 

Kriti and Paola are the only two players on the tennis team who play competitively outside of school, which helped them take second place in their division at state on Oct. 20-22. However, unlike high school tennis, competitive tennis is completely individual.

  Kriti said that she felt much less alone and stressed during the school season than the competitive season. 

“You put a lot more pressure on yourself when you’re by yourself on the court,” Kriti said, “but when you’re with the team, you have other people there to help you and they understand what you’re going through, especially when you’re playing doubles.” 

Paola agreed with Kriti saying that she really appreciates how school tennis is much less stressful.

“It’s definitely a much more relaxed time throughout the school year because, until the sectional rounds, the stakes aren’t as high,” added Poala.

Reflecting on her time on the tennis team, Kriti said that school tennis has been a place to form lasting connections.

“I think the team really helped me socially and just to find a little bit of my place in the school,” Kriti said. “It’s like a place where you can always go back to.”

I think the team really helped me socially and just to find a little bit of my place in the school. It’s like a place where you can always go back to.

— Kriti Sarav

Captain Sara Kumar said Kriti and Paola add a lot to the team and that they have formed strong connections together.

“Paola showed up to practice every single day ready to participate and she always had a smile, and Kriti was always ready with jokes and witty comments,” Sara said. “We know each other pretty well, so we always have fun on the court together, and we also know when to cheer each other on.”

Head Coach Dawuad Talib said Paola and Kriti led the team together regardless of other players’ skill level.

“Kriti and Paola never hesitate to take on some less skilled players and be with them to help bring them along,” he said. “There was no team hierarchy as far as they were concerned.” 

Kriti has plans to continue playing tennis in college and said that the team aspect of tennis was a big factor in wanting to continue playing. 

“Well, I’m definitely excited to have the same team aspect in college because it’s like you have a built in group of friends,” she said.

Paola said that a motivating factor for her in tennis was the idea of representing the team and school that supports her. 

“When you go on court, you’re representing the coaches and everyone on the team and, like, the teachers and everyone in the school, and that’s something big for me,” she said.

The two paired well despite the age difference.

“We were able to have a really good balance of our strengths and our weaknesses. I didn’t even notice any age difference,” Paola said. “Over the season, we were able to grow close and really figure out how we could work together.”

Kriti agreed, saying that playing doubles this year helped her learn how to collaborate with others on and off the court. 

Mr. Talib said that they worked extraordinarily well together which impacted other players on the team. 

“They know how to play off one another, they know each other’s strengths, each other’s weaknesses, both fight like silent leaders, they led mostly by example with their rackets,” he said.

Kriti and Paola’s advanced skill level and age difference disappear each time they take part in shouting those familiar words with their team. The pair found themselves as a part of a larger community on the varsity tennis team. This was the only thing that mattered to them when shouting back at one another.