It was a moment more than three years in the making.
Plainview JFK’s Yuval Solomon ripped his final serve past two-time defending champion Matt Gamble of Webster-Schroeder to win the third set tiebreaker and capture the state boys tennis championship on Saturday at the National Tennis Center in Flushing. The score was 6-0, 5-7, 7-6 (4).
“I told myself that I’ve been working for years and I know I can play tennis and fight and do this,” Solomon said. “I learned some of the strategies that he had last year and that he was going to be aggressive and I had to do the same.”
Solomon got his first taste of the state tournament as an eighth-grader when he reached the quarterfinals with Josh Young. He lost his first singles match as a freshman but battled back to make the consolation final. He fell to Gamble in two sets in last year’s final.
“He is the hardest working kid I’ve ever coached,” Plainview JFK coach Nick Ventimiglia said. “I’ve been coaching 42 years and tennis for 15 and I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as he does. I was telling him, ‘You deserve to be here — now finish it,’ and he did.”
Solomon came out flying in the first set, easily breaking Gamble in the first game and fighting out of a 30-40 hole during the next to keep his lead. By the time he volleyed a smash from Gamble that landed precisely in the far back corner to go up 5-0, the first set was all but over.
“I know he is a great comeback player and he wouldn’t give up,” Solomon said. “I knew he’d come back and I just had to play my game and stay focused on what I was doing and play my heart out and play like a champion.”
Gamble did just that, winning a tight second set to force the decisive third.
Solomon got a break to go up 4-3 in the third set. Then they traded breaks before Solomon held serve to send it to the tiebreaker.
From there he won the first five points before dropping the next four. He won the next point to go ahead 6-4 and was serving for the match. That was when he launched the final serve that culminated all the hard work.
“This is better than I thought,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be this exciting and this overwhelming. I can’t even explain how happy I am right now.”