Ryan Wu took a deep breath, ignored the flutter of nerves in his stomach and focused on what he wanted -— a county championship.
The Great Neck South sophomore and top seed settled into his game when it mattered most on Friday night, capturing his first Nassau boys badminton title with a victory over Jericho’s Gary Jiang, 21-18, 19-21, 21-13, at Long Beach High School.
Jericho junior Dennis Chau and sophomore Anshul Vemuri, the top seed, defeated teammates Nitish Rajagopal and Suchir Misra, the eleventh seed, 21-15, 21-13, to capture their first doubles title.
“I was panicking in the second set but then I remembered my dad told me not to do that, losing a point is nothing,” said Wu, who defeated teammate and No. 12 seed Justin Choi in the semifinals (21-7, 21-17). “I started to calm down and realized there were some shots I could easily get.”
Wu jumped out to a quick lead in the third set, finding a rhythm and grabbing his confidence back. He also said that his familiarity with Jiang, who he defeated twice during the regular season after falling in last year’s county semifinals, helped him hit his stride down the stretch.
“There were a lot of shots I noticed where he does the same thing when I play him,” Wu said. “I would know how to predict it and run towards the spot immediately.”
Great Neck South coach Allison Gottfried credited Wu for his composure late in the match, saying he is “always so even and focused.”
“He really has what it takes to be a competitor,” Gottfried added. “He’s also helping everyone get better at this game and has a true love and passion for the game.”
While Wu’s victory came with some mid-match drama, Chau and Vemuri captured their championship with straight-set wins in all four of their matches.
“Every single match I was nervous, but excited,” Chau said. “I was confident the entire time because throughout the regular season we seemed to pull off the wins. We both had our game today.”
Still, Vemuri admitted that it was strange squaring off against their teammates, particularly after Rajagopal and Misra staged some of the most tightly contested matches of the day with three-set wins in the semis and quarterfinals.
“It was a little weird because it’s Jericho against Jericho,” Vemuri said. “We wanted to win, but they’re also our teammates, so we tried to play our best.”
For Wu, the championship is something he hopes his team can build off, as Great Neck South turns its attention to next week’s team championship, looking to capture one more title.
“I’m hoping my team gets encouraged by the win,” he said. “I’m just looking to help them win and I’m hoping they play well.”