Doubles partners Tamara Arnold and Bunyawi Thamchaiwat had been teammates for four weeks when they played their first match together.
At the start of December, Arnold was finishing her last semester at Tyler Community College in Tyler, Texas, while Thamchaiwat was in Thailand competing in a professional tournament. A month later, as roommates and doubles partners on the Oklahoma State women's tennis team, they scored a victory together in their debut match together against a duo from No. 1 Duke in the Bahamas.
Arnold, who's from Switzerland, said the two clicked the first day they met, thanks to what she inherited from her mother.
“We have something in common, like her mom is Thai, my mom is Thai, so I’m half Thai,” Arnold said. “So we kind of have some inside jokes. Sometimes we speak in our language, sometimes it is Thai. I don’t speak it perfectly but we have the same kind of humor."
Tennis is predominantly an individual sport, but the two best singles players might not make the best tandem. A good pairing must possess qualities that can’t simply be learned on the court, such as chemistry. A team can have all of the talent and weapons in the world, but if they are not playing “together” and supporting each other, especially after blowing a big point, any success as a doubles team will be limited and short-lived.
Because collegiate doubles matches last only one set, there is no time for players to let themselves down or argue with each other. Both Arnold and Thamchaiwat, who have gone 4-0 as a tandem so far this season, understand how important it is to keep their positivity on the court.
“It's not just being super serious at the court all the time, we are having fun on the court,” Arnold said. “We cheered out. We missed a point and started laughing like, ‘Hey, it’s fine you know,' just keep going, play your best and have fun on what you are doing. If (Bunyawi) misses, so what, it happens. I think she really appreciates that I am such a chill person and I think that is what makes us be such a good doubles team."
Arnold and Thamchaiwat seem to enjoy playing alongside one another, and they both agreed that they feed off of each other's energy.
“We talk to each other like, ‘Okay, you’ve got this. Don’t be fearful. Just play on your game.’” Thamchaiwat said. “I know her mind and she knows my mind so we just talk about 'just play, do your best you got this.' We just give energy with each other."
A high-five, fist-bump or pep-talk is normally seen from a double pairing after essentially every point, and Arnold and Thamchaiwat are no exception. They have not only built a strong connection, but also a friendship off the court that keeps their morale high. The two often accompany each other to practice or school, and said they like to cook and do homework together.
“She is a funny person and she has positive thinking,” Thamchaiwat said. “We have to pass it together and we win together. We talk everything to each other. It makes me and Tammy know each other like best friends. That’s why we play together like the best way we know.”
Arnold said the fact that she and Thamchaiwat are newcomers in Stillwater helped bond them together well.
“It is a lot better than to be here alone,” Arnold said. “I am not a freshman but basically I am a freshman because I am new here. She helps me a lot in everything no matter schools, tennis, homework, being in the apartment cooking everything.
“She is such a happy person and makes me smile if I have a bad day. I just get home to my apartment and she is just standing here and saying some funny stuffs and it makes my day. I feel like she is my sister honestly we can talk super funny stuff and serious stuff, if we have problems we can talk to each other.”
OSU coach Chris Young said he spent a year recruiting Arnold and had to wait for Thamchaiwat to finish school in Thailand, but he knows he has the pairing for the future.
“With all the doubles teams, chemistry is the most important,” Young said. “Those two, they actually live together and spend a lot time together. There are a few things that led them to be together and become faster connected than before. I think that it really helps them to become a good doubles team.”