It was one year in the making, but Plainview JFK junior Yuval Solomon finally got his rematch with Webster-Schroeder’s Matt Gamble, the two-time defending New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) champion.
“I knew I wanted to come back and win it this year, and I knew I wanted to play Gamble and beat him,” said Solomon. “I was confident and knew I had to just play my game.”
Solomon did just that, taking his game to the next level in a third-set tiebreaker, eventually outlasting Gamble 6-0, 5-7, 7-6(4) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows on Saturday morning to win the New York state title.
He is the first state champion from Long Island since Cold Spring Harbor's Josh Levine won the second of his back to back titles in 2012.
“I’m so happy,” Solomon added. “I was getting tired at the end, but I knew that this is what I have been working so hard for and was able to pull through.”
Solomon looked like a man on a mission from the onset. A backhand passing shot gave him a break in the match’s first game, and after holding serve, a Gamble forehand into the net handed Solomon a 3-0 advantage.
He would hold again to jump ahead 4-0, and after Gamble failed to put away a volley, Solomon chased it down and hit a winner for the 5-0 lead. A hold of serve in the ensuing game closed out the 6-0 set for Solomon.
In the second set, Gamble began playing sharper tennis. He held serve in the opening game to get himself on the board for the 1-0 lead. After Solomon held serve, Gamble would win three of the next four games to take a 4-2 advantage.
With the intensity of the match rising, Solomon broke back to bring things to 3-4, and held serve with a forehand winner down the line to even things at 4-4. The set would remain on serve until 6-5 when Gamble, showing why he was the two-time defending champion, broke Solomon to win the set 7-5 and force a deciding third.
“He’s a great comeback player, so I knew he wasn’t going to give up and he would come back,” said Solomon. “I just had to stay focused and play my heart out.”
Solomon served well to open the third set, firing a couple of aces in his opening service game to get his rhythm back. The set would remain on serve until 3-3, when three straight breaks of serve saw Solomon take a 5-4 lead and have an opportunity to serve for the state title.
Gamble once again showed his muster, though, breaking back to stay in the match and knot things at 5-5. After two holds of serve, the match headed into a tiebreaker.
In the tiebreaker, Solomon illustrated how much he wanted this victory. He raced out to a 5-0 lead, and even after Gamble made it close with four straight points, Solomon sealed the deal with back to back aces.
“I just told myself that I knew I could do this. I have been working at this and playing tennis for years,” added Solomon. “I had to fight. I was able to get some more first serves in and stayed aggressive.”
“He’s the hardest working kid I’ve ever coached, and I’ve been coaching for 43 years,” said Plainview head coach Nick Ventimiglia of Solomon. “I’ve never seen anybody work as hard as he does. I told him you deserve to be here, now go finish it. And he did.”
In the doubles final, Hope and Courage Crawford of Mamaronek defended their title, defeating Horace Greeley’s James Wei and Spencer Lowitz 7-5, 6-2. The pair becomes the first doubles team to repeat as state champions since Prem Vadlamudi and Vijay Vadlamudi of New Hartford did it in 1988 and 1989.
Syosset’s Neel Rajesh and Kabir Rajpal finished in third place, defeating Brighton’s Ryan Gao and Josh Marvald 6-3, 6-2 in the consolation match on Saturday.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.