With the shadows of Arthur Ashe Stadium looming over one end of the court and the Unisphere in Corona Park in sight on the other, Cold Spring Harbor's Conor Dauer said he was at first intimidated by the stage.
The Nassau singles runner-up dropped the first set of his opening-round match at the boys tennis state championships at the National Tennis Center Thursday as the tension between and he and his opponent Nate Palmer (Batavia) was rising with the heavy heat.
But then officials briefly suspended play across the tournament because of the extreme heat, and Dauer was given a chance cool his body and his mind.
"Nerves got the best of me. I mean I'm playing on Court 7 of the U.S. Open, I'm under a lot of pressure and have a lot of things running through my head, and he's playing well," Dauer said. "But the minute I heard we could take a break it was a great opportunity after losing the first set. I was able to cool down, collect my thoughts and come out in the second set heated."
He did more than that. He came out on fire.
Dauer powered through the next two sets and prevailed, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, to advance to the second round in the main draw, highlighting a group of seven players from Nassau and eight from Suffolk who won their first-round matches and advanced to the second round Friday.
Dauer, playing in his first state championships, took an early lead in the second set and fought through a 12-deuce game to go ahead 5-1. In the third, he broke serve when he saved a point with two forehand stabs that set up a backhand winner to go up 3-1.
"That was a big point," Dauer said of the break in the third set. "I was thinking in my head, 'I've been wanting to come to states for five years, I don't want to lose in the first round,' so making that shot with the backhand winner after playing just OK today, it really pumped me up."
Herricks' Vihar Shah, the Nassau singles champion, won his first-round match, 6-2, 6-3, and Half Hollow Hills East's Zain Ali, the Suffolk singles champ, won his, 6-1, 6-1. Sayville's Tyler Hoffman advanced, 6-2, 6-2, while Wantagh's Doug Notaris won both an outbracket match and a first-round match, dropping just one game.
Whitman's Brandon Stone had a tough draw against the tournament's top seed, Shawn Hadavi of Dobbs Ferry, and lost, 2-6, 1-6.
The two other Hills East pairs representing Suffolk, Roger Cheng and Michael Leffler and Travis Leaf and Ross Reiffman, both easily advanced. Nassau champs Conor Mulls and J.P. Paris from Cold Spring Harbor won their first match, 6-4, 6-4, and Plainview JFK's Yuval Solomon and Josh Young won their match, 6-0, 6-1.
Second- and third-round play in the singles and doubles main draw continues at 8 a.m. Friday along with the start of the consolation brackets.