Junior Shyla Aggarwal becomes first Comets singles tennis champion

Defeats familiar foe to claim title

Andrew Little | The Chronicle

Shyla Aggarwal defeated defeating Anthony Wayne’s Lily Black to win the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division State singles tennis championship.

Some teams are synonymous with winning. The Mason women’s tennis team is one due, in part, to Shyla Aggrawal.

On October 23, Aggarwal, a junior for the five-time reigning state champions, became the first Mason Comet to win the singles championship. She defeated Anthony Wayne’s Lilly Black, who is also a junior, in three sets (6-7, 6-3, 6-2) in the state finals. 

Black and Aggarwal were familiar opponents as they competed against each other in the semi-finals of the state tournament in 2020. Aggrawal won 2-1 (3-6, 6-3, 6-1). As the two often face each other in both school and off-season tournaments, they have developed a friendly relationship in their time together. Aggarwal said that because of a loss to Black over the summer, she was a bit tense heading into the state finals. 

“I lost to [Black] over the summer in a tournament,” Aggarwal said. “That made me a little bit more nervous because I didn’t know if I could beat her this time.”

Aggarwal finished as the state runner-up in 2020, and her return to the final match a year later brought back memories of a narrow defeat. Aggarwal lost the first set 4-6, paralleling her 6-7 loss a year earlier. Aggarwal said that she got off to a slow start, but took a more carefully crafted approach in the last two sets.

“In the first set, I was being impatient. I was going for things that I shouldn’t have, and that’s why I kept missing,” Aggarwal said. “It was still pretty close, but the next two sets I kind of just got that together.

In the 2020 finals, Aggarwal lost to Elizabeth Pendergast, a senior from St. Ursula Academy, in three sets (6-4, 2-6, 7-5). As a sophomore, Aggarwal went into the tournament with the approach of making it as far as she can, but not necessarily expecting to win. After Pendergast graduated, Aggarwal said that she shifted her mindset towards winning.

“My expectation was winning state. That was my goal all season,” Aggarwal said.

Although she went into the state tournament as a top seed, Aggarwal was placed into a bracket with several of the athletes favored to win the competition. After narrowly defeating Amara Brahmbhatt of St. Joseph Academy in the second round 2-1 (4-6, 6-2, 6-4), Aggarwal went on to beat Tess Bucher of North Canton Hoover in the semi-finals 2-0 (6-1, 6-1), securing a second finals appearance. 

Aggarwal said that she used her victories as a confidence booster and used them as momentum going into her final match.

“I was pretty nervous, especially after I got my draw and saw that I could potentially lose the second round,” Aggrawal said. “But I just thought ‘you have to control what you can’ and that definitely helped me.”

Aggarwal lost a tight first set to Black 6-7 in what would become one of her longest matches of the season, with many rallies of up to 25 balls. Aggarwal said that head coach Mike Reid helped her identify her opponent’s flaws early in the match so that she could recover in the next two sets.

“[Black] was a little bit different than most other girls I’ve played all season,” Aggarwal said. “[Coach Reid] helped me realize that I needed to expose her weaknesses and wait until I get like an absolutely perfect ball that I know I can hit a winner on to win the point.”

By adjusting her aggressiveness, Aggarwal was able to come back in the next two sets with hard-earned, but convincing victories and become a state champion. Seconds after the final point, rain began to pour down. Aggarwal said that her teammates continued encouragement and support throughout the match helped get her through the long match.

“That definitely helped me finish the next two sets,” Aggarwal said. “[The win] felt really good. I was super relieved and really happy. Celebrating with the team and knowing that everybody was there to watch me and I was able to make them happy was a really good feeling.”

As a junior as well as a state champion, Aggarwal’s athletic journey is not yet finished. After becoming the first Comet to win the singles title, Aggarwal is now focused on repeating her feat and helping lead the team to their sixth straight title. Aggarwal said practicing with the same effort and purpose that allowed her to become a champion in the first place will help her in her quest for state title number two.

“I think it’s just gonna be the same thing,” Aggrawal said. “Practicing with the purpose of trying to win again.”

Photo contributed by Carol Lehman