Kabir Rajpal was feeling the heat.
Nearing the end of his second strenuous match Friday during the state tennis tournament at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, the Syosset junior did everything he could not to give in.
Down a break in the second set in the semifinals against Jamesville-DeWitt’s Peter Hatton, he finally got back on serve after a break of his own tied it at 5. He then went on to win a tiebreaker and clinch his spot in the state final with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) victory.
“That was probably my best mental toughness I’ve had that I can think of,” Rajpal said. “That literally pushed me to the limit. Being down a break that whole set is different for me because usually I come out quick.”
Rajpal credited his opponent for that slow start.
“He was so unpredictable that it was almost impossible to control my emotions but I did and it paid off,” Rajpal said. “It’s tough, but I also think I could have done a better job of picking up on what he was doing but I was a little fatigued.”
Rajpal also had a tough match earlier in the day when he beat Gabriel Castillo-Sanchez of Washingtonville, 6-3, 6-0. He’ll face last year’s state runner-up, Ryan Fishback of Geneva, in Saturday’s final.
“I’m definitely an underdog going in because Ryan is an unbelievable player,” Rajpal said. “He’s a good friend and I’ve known him for a long time so hopefully we have a good final.”
Roslyn’s doubles team of Mikey Weitz and Adrian Tsui also showed great resolve in the semifinals. After dropping the first set 6-1, the duo fought back to force a third set tiebreak before eventually falling, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
With the loss it will be up to Rajpal to bring more hardware back to Nassau. He’s looking to win the fourth straight singles state title for the county.
“We’ve had unbelievable players in the past and now to be a part of that is an honor,” Rajpal said. “It’s great to feel that little extra pressure.”