Lindsay Cunningham spent most of her first three years in high school playing singles on the tennis court. When Jacobs coach Jon Betts slotted her into doubles this season, Cunningham said it took some getting used to.
Her connection with her new partner, Isha Desai, however, came quite naturally.
The duo, playing together for the first time in their careers, went on to win the Fox Valley Conference No. 1 singles championship. They defeated the defending champions, Cary-Grove’s Alina Krembuszewski and Karina Los, 6-1, 6-0, in the championship match.
They also helped Jacobs capture the FVC regular season and tournament championships. The duo went on to qualify for state in Class 2A, where they finished 2-2.
With their performance, Cunningham and Desai have earned the 2019 Northwest Herald Girls Tennis Players of the Year award. The last Jacobs duo to win the award was Haley Steinkamp and Kylie Skepnek in 2017.
Cunningham finished her Jacobs career with more than 100 victories, including her years playing singles. Desai, a sophomore, still has two more years remaining.
They recently spoke with the Northwest Herald about tennis, Taco Bell and much more.
What was your favorite moment from this season?
Desai: Off court, it would be spending time with my teammates on the bus rides to and from our sites for tournaments. On the court, it was staying positive and playing with my partner.
Cunningham: My favorite moment was conference because Isha and I both played really well that day and we had a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun to be able to regain the conference title with our team.
What was it like to have a new doubles partner this year?
Desai: Honestly, it wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary. I did have to adjust because there’s a new partner. Lindsay, of course, is a super nice person. She’s easy to get along with, so it wasn’t a big adjustment. I knew her from before, obviously, because we were teammates. It wasn’t a completely new person.
Cunningham: At first it was hard because I had played singles for my previous three years. I was trying to adjust to doubles. As the season went on, it got better and I think we worked really well together.
What was it like developing chemistry together?
Desai: It was really fun spending time with her on court for all our tournaments and every day. I just thought it was really fun because we got closer than we already were previously.
Cunningham: I agree. It was a lot of fun. We built a really close relationship and it was cool because previously I was all alone out there. Being able to have someone out there to support you and boost your confidence was really cool.
How did you start playing tennis?
Desai: I started in third grade after one year of swimming. I didn’t really like swimming. I joined tennis and I just ended up really liking it. I made a lot of new friends.
Cunningham: My sister played when she was little, so I would come to her practices and watch. My parents decided to put me in lessons, too.
Who is your biggest hero?
Desai: My parents. I could say a celebrity, but my parents [Ami and Aabhas Desai] are my biggest heroes because they worked really hard to get to where they are now and support my brother and I. Whatever I do, whatever my brother does, they’re really supportive of everything.
Cunningham: I would agree, my parents [Kym and Scott Cunningham] are my biggest heroes because they have supported me since forever and they came to every single match and were always there cheering me on.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Desai: I don’t know if this is hidden or not, but I play the piano. I’ve played since second grade; however, I stopped taking lessons freshman year because it was hard balancing that with school and tennis.
Cunningham: I can sing all 50 states. I don’t really have any hidden talents. The state song. I can sing the whole thing. It’s stuck with me forever.
What’s your favorite class in school?
Desai: Algebra. Well, I like all math classes.
Cunningham: I like all math classes, too.
What's your go-to meal?
Desai: Would something from Taco Bell count? A Crunchwrap from Taco Bell.
Cunningham: Mine would be chicken tenders.
What’s your dream job?
Desai: Probably something that has to do with math. Maybe a chemist.
Cunningham: I really have no clue what I want to do, but possibly something business-related.
If you could hang out with anyone in the world right now, who would it be?
Desai: I’d hang out with my friends who live in Georgia. We used to be really close when I lived in Wisconsin; however, I moved to Illinois and then they moved. I haven’t seen them in a while.
Cunningham: My sister [Lauren Cunningham]. She’s in New York and I haven’t seen her in a long time and I miss her a lot. Oh shoot, now my brother’s going to be mad.