With the sun and his opponent bearing down on Josh Levine - his shirt soaked with sweat, his face an unhealthy shade of red - the thought of playing a third set was as unwelcome as a warm jacket or a hot cup of coffee.
Having already beaten Half Hollow Hills West's Nolan Gelman, 6-2, 6-1, in the second round, Levine was serving for match point at 5-4 in the second set of the quarterfinals before Forest Hills' Stefan Ilic managed to rally and take a 6-3 lead after forcing a tiebreaker.
But the Cold Spring Harbor sophomore overcame the deficit Friday, capped by a two-handed backstroke that was returned wide by Ilic on match point. Levine avoided a dreaded third set, winning 6-4, 7-6 (7) at the NYSPHSAA Boys Tennis State Championships at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
"I was taking it one point at a time, just trying to fight back," Levine said. "It's definitely a big accomplishment for me and I'm happy to be where I am right now."
Levine advances to the semifinals, which begin at 8 a.m. Saturday.
In other action, Hills East eighth-grader Zain Ali saw his impressive season come to an end in the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-1 loss to second-seeded Quinton Vega of Beacon. Ali beat Oneonta's Riley Lorenz, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, in the second round.
Cold Spring Harbor's Eric Ambrosio couldn't counter the aggressive baseline play of his second-round opponent, Joe Raude of Cardozo, who won, 6-2, 6-2. Citing his lack of a put-away shot, Richard Sipala of the Ross School was defeated, 6-3, 6-3, by Eric Halpern of Blind Brook in the second round.
Long Beach's Eric Rubin and Matt Berry defeated Bethlehem's Brendan Jacques and Yufan Lin, 6-0, 6-2, in the second round and Scarsdale's David Goldberg and Jake Gorobetz, 6-3, 6-2, in the quarterfinals. Farmingdale's Ignacio Casali and Brendan Henry also advanced to the semifinals after defeating East Islip's Kevin Serina and Nick Bauer, 6-0, 6-1, followed by a 7-5, 6-2 win over Stuyvesant's Christopher Jou and Leon Pan.
Suffolk doubles champions Chris Hunter and Eric Bertuglia of Hills East fell in the second round after dropping a third-set tiebreaker to Brooklyn Tech's Jake Sosonkin and Mikolaj Borak, who won, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2). Also losing in the second round were Friends Academy's Jon DeFrancesch and Andrew Yaraghi, who were defeated, 6-4, 7-5, by Byram Hills' Kyle Rosen and Jordan Kaufman.
The tournament concludes Saturday with the semifinal and championship rounds. After eliminating Suffolk's best player and winning a thrilling tiebreaker, Levine will face his biggest challenge yet in top-seeded Jeremy Court of New Rochelle. "I just have to play to win and go through my shots," Levine said. "If I keep playing my best, I think I have a shot at winning this."