Shashank Pennabadi of Ward Melville, left, and brother Harshith Pennabadi...

Shashank Pennabadi of Ward Melville, left, and brother Harshith Pennabadi react at the conclusion of semifinals doubles play during Day Two of the NYSPHSAA boys tennis state championships at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows on Saturday, June 1, 2024. Credit: James Escher

One Long Island entry remains in the hunt for a boys tennis title at the NYSPHSAA Individual Championships and it is threatening to completely turn the doubles field on its ear.

The Ward Melville team of brothers Harshith Pennabadi and Shashank Pennabadi eliminated the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals and the No. 6 seed in the semifinals — both in straight sets — to earn a spot in Sunday’s 9 a.m. championship match at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center. The Pennabadis will face No. 1-seeded Sam Saeed and Jack Reis of Scarsdale on Court 12.

“We have a hunger,” junior Shashank Pennabadi said. “We’re getting momentum here. That matters in doubles, and we want to keep it going.”

“Even though we didn’t get a great seeding [No. 7], I still felt like we were capable of making a run at the state [championship],” senior Harshith Pennabadi said. “We’re going to fight for every point.”

What the Pennabadis will not get is a rematch against the team that beat them for the county doubles crown, fourth-seeded James Yu and Eric Benderly of Commack. For a while, however, the Cougars’ tandem made it seem possible against Saeed and Reis.

Yu and Benderly have staged impressive comebacks in coming from behind to win. They won a three-set semifinal in the county individuals and a three-setter to clinch the Suffolk County Division I team title. And after they dropped the first set of their quarterfinal against Friends Academy’s Russell Notaris and Bryan Bin, turned the corner by winning a second-set tiebreaker and then rode that emotional lift to complete a 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 victory.

“We’re so used to it that playing from behind doesn’t faze us and we find a way to win,” Benderly said after Saturday morning’s quarterfinal. “Our experience is that falling behind doesn’t mean you can’t find the way back.”

Yu and Benderly lost the first five games against the Scarsdale duo but rallied to get the second set to tiebreaker and even had a pair of set points before falling 2-6, 6-7 (7).

The Islanders didn’t fare as well in the morning. Herricks’ Samarth Deepudass, Roslyn’s Ethan Solop and Ross’ Eduardo Menezes all fell in straight sets in singles. Fourth-seeded Deepudass and Solop are scheduled to meet for fifth place Sunday in a rematch of a Nassau final won by Deepudass.

Third-seeded Nikhil Shah and Devan Melandro lost a quarterfinal in straight sets and are scheduled to play Notaris and Bin for seventh place in a rematch of the Nassau final won by the Syosset pair.

Shashank Pennabadi was half of the Patriots entries who won the Suffolk doubles title and finished third in the state the past two years. He teamed with his brother for this last season together, Nevertheless, the road to the state final has major disappointments. As the top seed in the county tournament, they lost in straight sets to Benderly and Yu to end up on a course to be seeded seventh in the state tournament.

And Shashank Pennabadi was on the team that lost to Benderly and Yu in that Suffolk team title clincher.

On Saturday they dispatched No 2 Benjamin Singer and Adam Fink of Horace Greeley in the quarters, 7-6 (6), 6-3, and No. 6 Owen Zerbib and Jinyang Li of Mamaroneck, 7-5, 6-2.

“We put everything behind us for this tournament,” Harshith Pennabadi said. “Every match is a new opportunity.”


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