Hills East's Zain Ali finishes third in singles at state tournament

Zain Ali of Half Hollow Hills East competes

Zain Ali of Half Hollow Hills East competes in first team singles at the boys tennis team final at Half Hollow Hills East on Friday, May 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Steven Ryan

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It's safe to say Zain Ali is the most accomplished player in the history of the powerful Half Hollow Hills East tennis program.

This weekend marked his fifth appearance in the state tournament, two more than any player in program history, according to coach Tom DePelteau.

The senior left his mark with another semifinal appearance and a third-place finish, falling to eventual champion Matt Gamble of Webster Schroeder, 3-6, 6-7 (7-2), Saturday at Louis Armstrong Stadium in Flushing Meadows.

"I knew from the start that he was a great player and it was going to be a tough match," Ali said of Gamble. "Even when I went down I was still playing well -- I could still play better -- but I knew I had a chance to beat him because I've been playing great this entire tournament."

Ali cruised through the regular season in Suffolk, and dropped only one set -- against teammate Kyle Alper in the Suffolk Division I championship.

"He didn't have a lot of challenges during the season in the County and maybe that affected his sharpness," DePelteau said. "But he got into this tournament and he showed the level that he can play at."

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Ali, seeded No. 4 in the state tournament, fell behind 5-1 in the opening set to Gamble and battled back to 5-3 before losing a tightly contested game to drop the set.

In the second set, Ali went up 4-2 before losing 7-6 in a tiebreaker (7-2).

"I like to come out and attack my opponents," Ali said. "He's a great player but I think I'm also a great player. I don't think rankings mean that much to me and he might be the No. 1 seed but I really thought I could beat him."

Ali's back-to-back semifinal appearances are the first for a Suffolk player since Dillon Pottish of Westhampton in 2005.

"From the start he was just a little kid, a 12-year old on the team," DePelteau said. "He quickly picked up the culture and he was a main thread for the last five years, not just on the tennis court but off."

The final of the consolation bracket was an all-Long Island affair as Port Washington's Ben Rosen defeated Yuval Solomon of Plainview JFK, 6-2, 6-3.

"The toughest thing is to take a loss because I played a good player in the first round," Rosen said. "I just had to bounce back and play my best tennis today."

It was the third time Rosen defeated Solomon this year.

Twins Dylan and Duane Davis of Half Hollow Hills West finished fifth in the doubles bracket after falling, 6-2, 6-3, to Danny Miron and Nicholai Westergaard of Fayetteville-Manlius.

Ross Reiffman and Travis Leaf of Hills East won the doubles consolation bracket with a 3-6, 7-5, 10-6 tiebreaking win over Phillip Raytburg and William Trang of Brooklyn Tech.

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