When his second serve landed out Yuval Solomon let out a yell of frustration.
The Plainview JFK junior had just given back the early lead he had taken after breaking the opening serve of Webster-Schroeder’s John Speicher in their semifinal match of the state boys tennis championships at the National Tennis Center in Flushing on Friday.
Solomon knew the importance of the next few points, sitting tied after four games.
“That was a huge point in the match,” Solomon said. “I know he’s got a great return and I had to step up my own. I knew that whenever I had a chance I had to break him because he was going to have a good return the next game.”
He did just that, breaking Speicher the next game before going on to win the first set 6-4. Solomon broke Speicher’s first serve of the second set en route to a 6-1 win that clinched his second consecutive state final berth.
Solomon showed off all the improvements he made in the last year. He dropped in an ace to go up 2-0 in the second set and won the third game with a powerful, lunging crosscourt winner. He turned many attacking opportunities for Speicher into offense of his own.
“I’ve really worked at making sure I get to every ball,” Solomon said. “It gets into people’s heads when I fight to the end of every point and never give up.”
Solomon defeated Mitchell Ostrovsky of Leon Goldstein Brooklyn 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
“He’s bigger, he’s stronger, he’s faster and he’s playing with heart,” Plainview JFK coach Nick Ventimiglia said. “He has improved his game in so many ways. This is his third year here and he’s made a step-by-step improvement He’s ready to take that last step.”
Solomon will play a familiar opponent in the final Saturday at 8 a.m. He faces Matt Gamble of Webster-Schroeder who beat him in last year’s final and is a two-time state champion.
Syosset’s number one doubles team of eighth-grader Kabir Rajpal and freshman Neel Rajesh took a giant leap of their own playing in their first state tournament. The duo made a run to the semifinals before falling to defending champions Hope and Courage Crawford of Mamaroneck, 6-3, 6-2.
“It’s been a good experience just taking in the atmosphere and seeing opponents from all over the state,” Rajpal said. “Just interacting with everyone here and seeing all the different types of players is helpful for the future.”