Jakob Bartels and Paul Kroska held down the No. 1 and 2 singles spots, respectively, for Mounds View's tennis team this spring.
But they elected to form a doubles partnership for the postseason. The merger of their talents signaled a reunion rather than a new direction. Primarily doubles players before this season, Bartels and Kroska played together in practice and at the Lifetime Fitness in Fridley.
They take the court in the Class 2A state tournament double draw at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Baseline Tennis Center on the University of Minnesota campus. They face Ryan Ness and Mitchel Brandell, key players for top-ranked Elk River.
Bartels, a junior, and Kroska, a senior, spoke to Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about joining forces, defeating a pair of Mounds View teammates in the section final and their goals for the state tournament.
Q What made you guys think you'd be an effective doubles team?
Paul: Jake and I get along really well because we've been friends for quite a while. Our games are more suited for doubles because we like to be more aggressive and we're fairly tall so it helps us a lot. I consider myself a better doubles player because I have a better feel for doubles.
Q How did playing singles this season improve your overall game?
Jakob: One thing is footwork because you're moving a lot more than you do playing doubles. And I feel playing singles helps your strokes.
Paul: In singles you're out there alone so you really have to focus on your match and what you can do. That helps your focus because in doubles it's easier to get carried away or be not focused because you have a partner. I think playing singles made me more determined and competitive.
Q You guys faced your teammates Isaac Jemielita and Tyler Wiegert, in the section final. All four of you qualified for state but what was it like having to play them in a big match?
Jakob: In all of our practice matches with them we were really even. We basically switched off winning every time. So we knew it would be a really good match. Paul and I played amazing, that's all I can really say.
Paul: That wasn't one of my more fun matches. It's kind of tough playing your own team. You want to win but at the same time they are two of my best friends.
Q Maple Grove ended Mounds View's run of 10 consecutive state tournament team appearances. Does having four members of your team at state ease the pain?
Jakob: Yeah, it does. No one was too devastated we didn't go to state but it was a bummer. I know I was trying really hard to get Paul into the state tournament because it's his last year. I'm sure he was working just as hard to get me there.
Q What is your state tournament outlook?
Jakob: We think that if we play well that we can go pretty far. At the same time, we're going to have fun with it. It's a great experience.
Paul: It's a really different atmosphere at state. There are about 10 times as many fans as usual and the stakes are so much higher. We're trying to relax and hopefully our games will go well.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574