Jay Robillard had played tennis with Nick Wilson before. The pair of Delta juniors are longtime friends and teammates. So when the Eagles shuffled their lineup before this season and paired the duo at No. 1 doubles, it wasn’t a union of strangers.
But as Robillard played with Wilson at the Jeffersonville Invitational, he realized he still had things to learn about his new yet familiar partner. As the pair played tight matches at a tournament with a difficult field, Robillard took note of Wilson’s strengths and style, eager to learn more about how they could best work together.
He began putting those practices in place immediately, and Robillard and Wilson have seen results throughout the season.
They have only two losses all year, both in three sets. They’ve won all six of their matches so far in the state tournament, often winning quickly and giving their team an early lead in the match. They have helped guide the Eagles to state, where No. 8 Delta will face No. 1 Carmel at 3 p.m. today at Carmel. It’s the Eagles’ first team appearance at state since 2010.
One of the first things Robillard noticed as he played with Wilson at Jeffersonville was Wilson’s ability on the baseline, a strength he began to utilize. The early tournament helped him figure out a wealth of ideas for how he and Wilson could improve.
“It was definitely good,” Robillard said. “Because Jeffersonville, there’s always a bunch of good teams there. So it helps you realize what you need to improve on.”
Since Jeffersonville, most of Wilson and Robilard’s wins have been lopsided. Wilson remembers being nervous for the Jeffersonville tournament, but agrees they worked out some of their kinks there. Given the pair’s previous familiarity, Wilson said it’s been a smooth process to reunite as a doubles team
“Jay’s got really good hands, and he’s really fast, so he can chase down stuff, he can make really quick moves at the net,” Wilson said. “And I’m more of a baseline kind of guy. I’m not very quick. So I just try to keep balls deep from the baseline.”
Eagles volunteer assistant coach Evan Rodenberger remembers watching the pair during the Jeffersonville tournament. As he watches Robillard and Wilson play now, he notices improvement.
“I just think it’s the daily grind of, ‘This is your partner, this is who you’re going to be with,'” Rodenberger said. “Just the constant camaraderie and constant playing together, you kind of learn each other’s strengths, weaknesses. How to push them, how to do all those kinds of things. So I think that’s really what’s helped them out the most.”
Wilson played No. 1 doubles for Delta last year as a sophomore, partnering with Rodenberger, while Robillard played No. 2 doubles. In working together this season, they’ve developed a better feel for each other’s personalities. They have an ability to understand each other’s emotions and provide the proper encouragement at appropriate times during a match.
“We joke around with each other a lot too,” Wilson said. “But then we know when we need to be serious, get the job done. We just try to have fun with it a lot of the times.”
Even when Robillard and Wilson are together off the court, their interests don’t stray too far. They enjoy table tennis, and Wilson remembers one match in particular. They played by tennis rules and Wilson remembers the match taking approximately 2½ hours. He recalls Robillard winning in a fifth-set tiebreaker.
“We’re both really competitive, so it’s always fun to do stuff like that,” Wilson said.