Ethan Solop of Roslyn returns a volley in the second...

Ethan Solop of Roslyn returns a volley in the second round of singles play during Day One of the NYSPHSAA boys tennis state championships at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows on Friday, May 31, 2024. Credit: James Escher

New York’s best public high school boys tennis players gathered at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center on Friday for Day 1 of the state individual championships and there was a lot of sizing up for the contingent from Long Island. Day 2, however, could be all about second chances and validation.

Nassau and Suffolk each sent three singles and three doubles teams to the tournament and they had a great morning as all 12 advanced through the first round. The afternoon was more of a mixed bag with just seven of them advancing into Saturday’s quarterfinal rounds.

“Nassau County has some of the strongest tennis players but my first look at the [singles] draw was a reality check about how tough this tournament is going to be,” said Nassau singles champion Samarth Deepudass of Herricks. “I wasn’t one of the first four seeds, but I still believe at my best, I can go far.”

Deepudass won a pair of matches in straight sets and is one of three Long Islanders who will play in the singles quarterfinals. Suffolk singles champ Eduardo Menezes of Ross, the No. 3 overall seed, made the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-4 second-round win over Liverpool’s Justin Barrett. Nassau runner-up Ethan Solop of Roslyn looked overpowering by making the quarterfinals by dropping just a single game in two victories.

“I waited all season for the opportunities in this tournament, but you can tell things are getting serious,” Menezes said. “My opponent’s game is to use a big serve and forehand and score points quick. So you have to adapt. I went for long volleys to get him out of his comfort zone.”

“[Solop] is just so powerful and hits the ball so hard,” said Mount Sinai’s Juan Perez, who fell to Solop, 6-1, 6-0, in the second round. “I wanted to try to move him around, but his ball is on you so fast that it’s hard to get into position to do that.”

In the doubles draw, Harshith Pennabadi and Shashank Pennabadi of Ward Melville won a pair of matches while dropping just a single game. The same was true for Suffolk doubles champs James Yu and Eric Benderly of Commack, the overall No. 4 seed.

“We were winning big shots and big volleys,” Yu said.

Added Benderly, “We won points that even surprised us.”

They advance to a quarterfinal meeting with Russell Notaris and Bryan Bin of Friends Academy, who beat Brighton’s Eitan Fay and Arnav Shama, 6-2, 6-4. The matchup holds plenty of Island intrigue as it pits an entry from the Suffolk large schools team champion against one from the Long Island small schools team champion.

The highest-seeded Long Island doubles team is Syosset’s Devan Melandro and Nikhil Shah at No. 3. They shrugged off opponents in the first two rounds for a pair of straight-set victories.

Worth watching in the second day of the tournament will be the play of Solop in singles and the Pennabadi brothers in doubles. Each was a top seed in their county tournaments and each got knocked off in the county title match. Solop was hamstrung by leg cramps. The Ward Melville duo was deeply disappointed with their play in losing that final.

Solop and the Pennabadis have a chance to make a statement by reaching the Saturday afternoon semifinals or Sunday championship match. Of course, Deepudas has an opportunity to reassert himself in singles, as do Yu and Benderly in doubles.

“We weren’t prepared for what happened in the county finals,” Shashank Pennabadi said. “We might have been looking past to the state [tournament]. That’s not going to be the case this time because we are prepared.”

“The doubles [tournament] is sort of up for grabs after the Pennabadis lost in the county [final],” Notaris said. “All season, everyone thought they’d be the top seed here and because of that, they aren’t one of the top four seeds. Now there’s no ending that would surprise me.”


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