KOHALA COAST— The wait is finally over.
After a mowing down the competition in the BIIF boys tennis tournament, Ryo Minakata can now claim something he hasn’t been able to his entire tennis career.
After wrapping up his third BIIF title on Saturday at the Mauna Lani Sports & Fitness Club, Minakata now has bragging rights over his brother JJ Minakata, who won two titles out of Hawaii Preparatory Academy.
“I feel like I am better than him now,” Ryo Minakata said with a laugh. “I passed him and I am pretty happy about that.”
Ryo Minakata and his brother have faced off a few times in practice matches, with JJ usually getting the better of his younger sibling.
But Ryo Minakata is now ready for a rematch.
“I want to face him again,” he said. “I believe I can beat him right now.”
Ryo Minakata showed no lack of confidence entering his third league championship match against Hilo’s Luke Hamano, winning 6-3, 6-0. However, the Vikings’ ace gave Ka Makani’s hard hitting striker trouble early in the match, taking three games.
Before the opening set, Ryo Minakata had not lost a game in the tournament.
“I was kind of nervous and did not play well for a few games,” Minakata said. “My strength is my forehand, and when that goes bad everything goes down.”
Ryo Minakata was able to get out of the early funk thanks to one solid shot that helped him relax.
“I just kept focusing on every shot, every point, and then finally, I had one shot that I hit really hard, a good forehand, and everything just became loose and I started to play better,” Ryo Minakata said. “I played my match from that point on and found my zone in the second set.”
The HPA senior also gave credit to the toughness of his Hilo opponent.
“He did a good job and was playing his best,” Ryo Minakata said. “We were having fun and it was awesome.”
While his technique and physical play on the court has always been steady, barring a few injuries suffered at the state tournaments, Ryo Minakata says he owes his third BIIF crown to improving his game mentally.
“In the last two years, I was not a great player mentally, and would get stressed and mad,” he said. “I was a lot better this year. I focused on my inside, my mind, and it changed a lot. I was more focused and in more control than I have been in the past.”
Ryo Minakata will head into the state tournament looking for his first HHSAA title after coming so close in the previous two years, losing in the quarterfinals last year and in the championship match in 2017.
“My body burned out and I got injured during the previous two state tournaments,” Ryo Minakata said. “This year I am stronger and feel way better heading in. My practices have been better, I am not cramping anymore, and I am eating healthier.”
This year, Minakata also has an advantage over most of the field with the tournament being held at Mauna Lani.
“I am really happy I am playing on home court,” he said. “I am playing my best and I hope everyone comes out and cheers for me.”