Jack Flores already has proved he’s the best in Suffolk.
The two-time boys individual tennis champion battled through a nagging shoulder injury and multiple rain delays two weeks ago to earn that honor.
The Huntington sophomore now has his eyes on an even bigger prize — a state championship. And he’ll have to get past some of Nassau’s best to get there.
Flores won two matches Thursday at the NYSPHSAA boys tennis championships at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to advance to Friday’s quarterfinals. He defeated Port Washington’s Gabriele Brancatelli, 6-2, 6-2, in the second match.
“Some people see Suffolk-Nassau as a rivalry,” Flores said. “They’re usually considered the better of the two counties but that doesn’t really affect me.”
Flores took the lead with an early break in the first set and added another break to go ahead 5-2. He finally prevailed on his third set point with a crosscourt forehand winner.
“I really brought my level up and I think that’s because he’s such a good opponent,” Flores said. “It was a really competitive match.”
Flores jumped out to an early lead in the second set and never was threatened.
Now he’s looking forward to playing the top seed, Patrick Maloney of Oyster Bay in his next match. Maloney, the Nassau champion, had a first-round bye and won his second round match, 6-0, 6-0, over Harrison Mattia of Pittsford-Sutherland.
Maloney rejoined the Oyster Bay team after spending the last four years focusing on the USTA circuit and is 19-0 on the season.
“I just wanted my last year to be fun and playing with the team,” he said. “I thought that would be a good way to end my senior year.”
Eli Grossman and Preet Rajpal of Syosset are also looking to end their senior season on a high note. The duo won the Nassau doubles title for the second consecutive year and hope to improve on last year’s third-place finish in the state tournament.
They defeated Dean and Liam Redmond of Warwick, 6-1, 6-2, to advance to the quarterfinals.
“It’s a lot less nerve-wracking than last year’s,” Grossman said. “I’m feeling more at ease but every match we’re going out there and playing our hardest. We’re looking for the big one this year.”
They both see improved chemistry as a reason they’ll be tough to beat.
“It’s both on and off the court,” Rajpal said. “We’re able to adjust depending on the match and really change our game plan. That really helps when you get deeper into these types of tournaments because you can play any competition at any level.”
Andrew Lin and Sol Yoon of Commack and Alexander Roti and Samir Singh of Friends Academy were the other Long Island teams to advance to the quarterfinals.
“It really helps us that the level of competition from where we’re from is so high,” Rajpal said. “But every match is going to be a challenge and we’re up for it.”