Kabir Rajpal wanted to focus on the positives.
The Syosset junior came up short in the New York State championship at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Saturday morning, when he fell to Ryan Fishback of Geneva 6-0, 3-6, 6-2, but said he wasn’t disappointed, particularly after rallying to win the second set.
“I’m happy how I played, especially after that first set,” Rajpal said. “It looked like it was going to be a blowout and I’m proud of myself, I stayed in it.”
Rajpal struggled to find his footing in the opening set, crediting Fishback for his quick play. He said Fishback, who was the runner-up in last year’s final, seemed to be everywhere at once, but added that he was still confident heading into the second set.
“Ryan chases down everything and puts so much doubt in your mind, you’re scared to make him run because he’s going to pull some fantastic shot and make you look stupid,” Rajpal said. “I accepted that’s him and I can only do my game, I can’t play his game.”
Rajpal opened the second set holding serve and started to turn the tide, finding a rhythm with his serve.
“Once you’re able to hold serve, it gets you a much better mental advantage,” Syosset coach Shai Fisher said. “Even when he was missing the first serve, his second was able to kick out wide and that helped him out a lot more as well.”
Rajpal settled into a rhythm in the second set, hitting his spots and winning the last two games to force a deciding third. He said he believed he could ride the momentum and looked strong in the first game of the third set, but, once again, Fishback had an answer. He won the final four games of the set to wrap up the match.
“I came out firing in the third and I had my chances,” Rajpal said. “Towards the end, I cramped up, but there are no excuses. He deserves it.”
It wasn’t the finish Rajpal hoped for, but after taking a year away from high school tennis last season, he said he didn’t have any regrets. He competed, felt like he held his own and, now, he’s got his sights set on a strong return next year.
“(Fishback) is the top of the top, so to hang with him and take a set off him, that’s a huge confidence boost,” Rajpal said. “Obviously I’d like to win, but I had a lot of fun and it motivates me to come back.”