Chaudhuri and Wagner serve up state title

Mitchell McMillen | The Chronicle

With multiple key graduated seniors no longer representing the Mason Comets at the tennis state tournament this year, a new young duo has emerged and earned the title of state champions.

On October 20 at The College of Wooster Tennis Courts in Wooster, Ohio, Emma Wagner and Pratyusha Chaudhuri took home the Ohio Tennis doubles state championship. They are the first pair in Mason girls tennis history to win the state doubles tournament. Wagner, a freshman, and Chaudhuri, a sophomore, were the youngest duo in the tournament this year.

In only their first year playing together, Wagner and Chaudhuri proved to be a dynamic duo, winning Mason High School’s (MHS) first girls doubles state championship in decisive fashion. Wagner and Chaudhuri won each of their four matches during the tournament in straight sets, winning the finals 6-0 and 6-1.

In the finals, Wagner and Chaudhuri faced Richie Francois and Paige Cornelius of New Albany. Francois and Cornelius, both seniors, were state finalists in 2022. The tournament was Wagner’s and Chaudhuri’s first state appearance.

Although young, the duo was confident in their abilities. Heading into the state tournament, Wagner and Chaudhuri knew that they were going to be facing older and more experienced players. Wagner said this took pressure off of the duo, and they saw the tournament opportunity to test their ability as a team against great competition.

“I feel it just kind of gave us [the mentality] like, ‘oh, we have some more years to try this,” Wagner said. “Let’s just try and give it our all.”

This mindset proved effective in their dominant tournament run. Throughout the state tournament, Wagner and Chaudhuri outscored their opponents 48-11.

Compared to the rest of the state field, Chaudhuri and Wagner were inexperienced in the doubles format. Before this year, the duo was separate and focused on their singles game. This year, however, the stars aligned to allow them to play doubles together.

“We’ve known each other for a few years now,” Chaudhuri said. “And we usually play singles but it just somehow worked, I guess.”

The pair have played together at United States Tennis Association (UTSA) tournaments before, but never as a duo at MHS. Chaudhuri played singles last year and Wagner was still in middle school, so this was the first year they had an opportunity to play together.

Early in the season, Chaudhuri voiced her desire to play doubles with Wagner to her head coach Mike Reid. Reid has coached Mason through multiple state championships and saw the growth firsthand of Chaudhuri and Wagner throughout the season.

“Pratyusha let me know early in the season that she would like to play doubles with Emma,” Reid said. “They work well together, they have fun, and they’re both very positive competitors.”

Wagner and Chaudhuri spent the season focusing on practicing together and improving as a duo, as they were new to the format. Chaudhuri credits Reid for his role in identifying specific skills to improve their doubles team.

“I feel like our coach helped a lot because he focused specifically on doubles,” Chaudhuri said. “So he’d help us with follies and especially overheads and a lot of the team got a lot better.”

Chaudhuri also attributes some of her success to watching Shyla Aggarwal compete last year. Aggarwal was a two-time individual state champion with zero losses in her junior and senior years. Aggarwal currently plays tennis at a division one level at Yale University.

Chaudhuri said that she grew a lot last year through Aggarwal’s encouragement. She noticed Aggarwal’s discipline and composure during important matches. Taking what she learned from Aggarwal, Chaudhuri was able to find her own state tournament success this year.

“It helped [because] she would always be telling me motivational things,” Chaudhuri said. “She wouldn’t ever be nervous even if she was down in a match. You learn a lot from that.”

Tennis ushers in new era with State Championship

Mitchell McMillen | The Chronicle

On October 21, Mason beat Upper Arlington in the finals to earn the title of Ohio Tennis Coaches Association (OTCA) state team champions for the seventh year in a row. 

Despite six straight state championships, the Comets were not considered the clear favorites to win the state championship. Ohio Tennis Zone had Mason finishing in third place for the preseason rankings.

Losing multiple seniors, including two-time singles state champion Shyla Aggarwal, put the Comets in an unfamiliar position. The team was relying on more underclassmen than in years past, including sophomore Addison Cassidy for first singles matches, and freshman-sophomore first doubles duo Emma Wagner and Pratyusha Chaudhuri. Head coach Mike Reid said that the team showed consistent growth throughout the season, and proved themselves in the postseason.

“I had high expectations going into the season,” Reid said. “We lost a lot of really good players, but I was hopeful that our new kids could come together and give us a chance for a state championship. I watched these kids get better every day in practice and felt pretty good about our chances by final four Saturday.”

Chaudhuri said despite the team’s inexperience, she was confident in the team’s abilities.

“We were a little nervous,” Chaudhuri said. “But then we realized that there were a lot of good incoming freshmen. We have four freshmen on the team right now who were all in the lineup.”

For most of the team, it was their first year competing for a state championship. Nerves mixed with excitement gave the team a lot of energy going into the tournament. Chaudhuri said she felt the energy from her teammates cheering her on as she played.

“They were always there cheering,” Chaudhuri said. “I remember teams would get mad at us because our cheering would be so loud. That helped a lot.”