Call it destiny. Refer to it as coincidence.
Whatever the case, Greenwood High School tennis player Jackie Kawamoto began seizing control of Saturday’s state singles championship match right around the time her mirror image arrived.
Jade Kawamoto, the elder of the identical twins by a few minutes, had been taking part in a tennis event at Carmel High School at 2 p.m., designated starting time of Jackie’s match against, ironically enough, a player from Carmel.
“I think it was 5-5 in the first set,” said Jade later of the time she showed up at Park Tudor High School, host of the IHSAA girls state finals in singles and doubles. “I was just nervous because I wanted to get back here as soon as I could. I was getting play-by-play on my phone as I drove.”
Jackie Kawamoto would go on to defeat fellow junior Bailey Padgett, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1, becoming the first Johnson County tennis player to win a girls singles title.
However, what Jade missed was a most unusual start to the match as neither Jackie nor Padgett managed to hold serve through their first four attempts.
The hard-hitting Padgett finally ended the trend, rallying from an 0-30 deficit to go ahead, 5-4. Kawamoto turned the tables by coming back from a 15-40 hole to hold serve for a 5-all score.
Padgett during the next point began experiencing cramping in her lower left leg. She returned after a three-minute break, her mobililty noticably affected. She nonetheless won the point, but again Kawamoto responded by holding serve to deadlock the match at 6-6.
Kawamoto fell behind 0-2 in the tiebreaker. Her back firmly against the wall once more, she rallied for a 7-5 victory to win the set.
“I knew (Padgett) would try to end the points as quickly as possible,” Kawamoto said. “I just knew I had to keep the ball in play and keep her on her legs. I rely on my speed a lot.”
“Jackie doesn’t beat herself,” added Greenwood coach Steve Gantz. “She hangs in and hangs in and hangs in. Obviously it was huge for her to win that first-set tiebreaker.”
The first set alone lasted 64 minutes. The second nowhere near that long.
Padgett broke serve for a quick 1-0 advantage. Kawamoto returned the favor and began pulling away, her quickness and extraordinary ball placement the difference against a taller, stronger and somewhat hobbled opponent.
The championship match played out on Park Tudor’s Court 1, which provides spectators an elevated vantage point along the court’s south side. It’s here Greenwood supporters let their voices be heard regardless of how Kawamoto was faring at the time.
Having a state champion in the family is something of a bittersweet endeavor for the Kawamoto twins, whose tennis skillsets are as identical as they are.
“(Jade) definitely supports me,” said Jackie. “She could have easily been here instead of me.”
Jade Kawamoto underwent foot surgery in January and eventually would be eased back into the Woodmen lineup at No. 2 singles.
“I’m happy for (Jackie). I’m glad she got this opportunity and glad she won,” said Jade.
Gantz more than anyone recognizes how fortunate Greenwood is to have two players of No. 1 caliber, even though one has to fill the No. 2 slot. Best of all, the Kawamoto twins still have their senior season ahead of them.
“Jackie and Jade have such great attitudes,” he said. “Their work ethic is just impeccable.”