Josh Levine and Andrew Yaraghi plan to train together later this week, just as they have almost every week during the last eight years.
Their next meeting, however, won't have the same significance as yesterday's. The two friends played for the state boys tennis championship at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center where Cold Spring Harbor's Levine beat Friends' Yaraghi 6-3, 6-2 to earn his second straight state title.
"It's a great end to a senior year, you can't ask for anything better than a state championship," Levine said. "It's amazing, I'm very happy."
Levine and Yaraghi train together every Tuesday throughout the season, participating in the other's weekly one-on-one lessons and in organized group drills. Yesterday's championship was their fourth head-to-head match in two months, as Levine beat Yaraghi at the Nassau championships 6-4, 6-4, and bested him with Cold Spring Harbor in the Nassau playoffs before that. Yaraghi beat Levine in a USTA sectional match.
"Andrew and I play so much so it's just the same every time," Levine said. "We're still going to be friends, but on the court we're rivals and I just got the better half of him today."
Levine started with a semifinal match against Taiya Hamanaka (Eastchester). After dropping the first set 4-6, Levine rallied to win the second 6-1 to force a deciding super tiebreaker. Levine clinched the match when he retreated from the net to chase down Hamanaka's lob shot, turned to his forehand and fired a winner toward the back corner of the court to take the tiebreaker 10-8.
"I just started off very tight, a little nervous playing a kid younger than me [a sophomore] in the state semifinals as the defending champion," Levine said. "It's tough but I did all I could to stay with it and in the super tiebreaker, it was pretty much who wanted it more."
In the final, Levine and Yaraghi exchanged breaks early in both sets, but Levine held serve and capture the title. Yaraghi hadn't lost a set in the tournament before the championship round, and was coming off a 6-3, 6-4 win over Vihar Shah (Herricks) in the semifinals.
"The points were close but [Levine] won the big games, and if I had to lose to somebody, it'd be Josh," Yaraghi said. "I gave it my all but he was better today."
Levine became the fifth player since the state started keeping records in 1981 to win back-to-back state championships. The last player to do so was Matt Kandath of Albany Academy, who won in 2007 and 2008. Cory Parr of Jericho was the last Long Island player to win consecutive titles, winning the doubles championship in 2003 and singles titles in 2004 and 2005.
"First time was great, second time feels better," Levine said. "Not many people win two straight state championships and for me to do it, I'm very proud of myself, I worked very hard this whole season and it paid off. I feel great."