Robert E. Lee sophomore Claire Fisher could not catch her breath.
Fisher was down 5-2 in the first set of her Class 6A Region II tournament playback mach against Longview’s Simran Kortikere on Wednesday at Waco Regional Tennis Center.
The winner received the second and final qualifying spot at the state tournament.
She continued to wait and wait, anxiety growing with each shallow breath. Fisher asked the chair official for a timeout and went to the side to try and recover, but breathing continued to be a struggle.
She had no choice but make the tough decision to withdraw.
“I have this disorder called vocal cord dysfunction that is triggered by stress,” Fisher said in a phone call later with the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “It’s a kind of a mix of asthma and a panic attack. I was having trouble breathing. I tried to take a timeout and it didn’t go away so I had no choice but to retire.
“When the moment came, she (Kortikere) came (to the net) and we were both crying and hugged. I love her to death and she is still calling and texting me to make sure I am okay.”
Kortikere joins Kiana Graham of Round Rock Westwood at the Class 6A state tennis tournament, May 18-19 at Texas A&M’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center.
Fisher began the day by defeating Klein Forest’s Lucia Garcia in the semifinals, 6-4, 6-1, in a match that dealt with stop and starts because of rain delays. It pushed the championship match back to later in the afternoon.
Fisher lost to Graham in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2, but many of the points featured long back-and-forth rallies amid the heat and humidity in Waco.
She would’ve been done for the day and celebrating a trip to state if Garcia had won her third-place match against Longview’s Simran Kortikere.
Unfortunately for Fisher, that did not happen, meaning she had to go back out and play Kortikere in a playback. Regional rules allowed for a one hour break before that match began. It was both players’ third match of the day.
“I had a tough semifinal match against (Garcia) and she ran me all over the court, and in the final I played a freshman (Graham) and she ran me all over the court,” Fisher said. “I didn’t feel 100 percent (for the playback), but I still wanted to go out and give it my all.”
Fisher defeated her friend from Longview in the District 11-6A tournament, but quickly fell behind 5-2 in the first set when her breathing problems became too much.
REL coach Ronnie Blake said Fisher shouldn’t let the unfortunate way things ended Wednesday take away from a strong performance at regionals.
“She did well. It was just having to play that many games and the stopping and starting. I thought she was outstanding,” Blake said. “It was that playback that got her. I was impressed with how she carried herself and prepared to play.”
Fisher said she still wants to go to state this year - as a spectator to root on Kortikere.
“I am still trying to convince my parents to go and watch her at state,” Fisher said. “(For next year) I have to work on my fitness. I can only go up from here. I better not go down.”