By Tyler Martin
Special to Tidesports
It was an historic season for Mazen Osama and Patrick Kaukovalta. It didn’t end the way they wanted, but realized sometimes the journey is more important than the outcome.
The Crimson Tide tennis duo lost to Maxime Cressy and Keegan Smith of UCLA in the NCAA national championships last week, becoming the first doubles team from UA to reach the finals.
“Before this season we had never played together in doubles,” Osama said. “The more matches we played together we could tell our dynamic was starting to grow. Our communication got better as the season went on, and we understood each other and what we wanted to do on the court.”
Osama and Kaukovalta’s tournament run included wins against Arizona State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Mississippi State before losing to UCLA.
“Our first goal was to finish in the top eight so we could get All-American status,” Kaukovalta said. “After each match we felt like we had a good chance to win the next one. Nothing felt impossible to us.”
The doubles team they faced from UCLA had not lost a match all season, so Osama and Kaukovalta knew it was going to be an uphill battle.
“We knew if we could keep focus on the serves and returns we could make it happen,” Osama said. “Obviously that did not happen, but it was close. Maybe not in terms of the score, but tennis-wise it was really close.”
UA head coach George Husack had a front-row seat all year to the duo’s success and knew they were set up for a great run.
“The match against Wichita State was tough for them,” Husack said. “Once they won that one it became a real possibility that they could go all the way. We are very proud of the way they played, and this season was truly special.”
Osama, a senior who will be graduating this fall, is unsure of what the future holds for him, but his impact around UA tennis will be missed.
“Mazen has impacted the name and credibility of our program,” Husack said. “He was recruited as the best player, and during his four years he stayed at the top as the best player, which is really hard to do.”
Kaukovalta will go back home to Finland over the summer to train for his junior year.
“A big piece of our puzzle will be missing next year,” Kaukovalta said. “I know the other guys will step up and do their best to replace Mazen.”
In the final doubles ranking of the season, Osama and Kaukovalta finished tied for fourth, which is tied for the best in program history.