Syosset's Rajpal, Grossman Capture Doubles Title
  | By Long Island Tennis Magazine Staff

For the third consecutive year, Plainview JFK’s Yuval Solomon proved to be the most dominant singles player in Nassau County, winning the singles title for the third time in a row with a 6-0, 6-0 win over New Hyde Park’s Peter Siozios on Sunday afternoon at Oceanside High School.

The defending New York State champion delivered a masterful performance on Sunday to become the first player  to win three straight Nassau County titles since Great Neck North’s Peter Fishbach did it from 1963-1965.

“I really wanted to win this in my senior year,” said Solomon. “I just focused on my game and being aggressive.”

After defeating North Shore’s Rajon Vohra 6-0, 6-2 in the semifinals, Solomon broke Siozios in the opening game of the championship and used that early advantage the rest of the match.

“I always try to start the match on the receiving end to see if I could get the early break and get the match in my favor early,” said Solomon. “Once I get it, I just focus on my serve and try to close it out.”

He did just that, not losing a game the rest of the way en route to the 6-0, 6-0 win.

Yuval Solomon won 24 of 26 games in the semifinals and finals of the Nassau County championships on Sunday. 

One of the turning points of the season for Solomon was a straight-sets loss to Syosset’s Neel Rajesh earlier in the year, his first loss in Nassau County in three years, something he says helped him refocus.

“It’s always good to lose, because you can step back and see what you need to work on, what you need to focus on,” says Solomon. “After losing to Neel, I was very focused on beating him in the playoffs; I wanted to get my revenge on him. It made me practice even heard to beat the other top players in the county. Pete is a really good player, and so I just focused on playing my game.”

As the defending champion, Solomon will most likely enter the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) championships as the top seed, but his seeding in the draw is irrelevant to him:

“I don’t really care what seed I get. I just need to play my game no matter who I play against. Strong, aggressive and smart, and just stay confident in myself.”

Plainview JFK head coach Nick Ventimiglia has had a front row seat to Solomon’s dominance the last few years, and couldn’t be prouder of his development.

“Every time I think he is on top of his game, he gets stronger. He played extraordinary this weekend. He’s a kid that has grown emotionally and physically, but his talent level has really taken off,” said Ventimiglia. “I’m going to miss him. It’s been a pleasure to write the name Solomon on the top of my ticket for so many years.”

Siozios will join Solomon at the state tournament next weekend, as well as Vohra, who beat Roslyn’s Daniel Weitz 7-5, 7-6(2) in the third-place match.

In doubles, a pair from Syosset captured the county title for the third straight year. Juniors Eli Grossman and Preet Rajpal continued the Syosset tradition with a 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over Roslyn’s Sangjin Song and Zach Khazzam in the finals.

Grossman and Rajpal celebrate a point during the Nassau County championship. 

“As the second see we definitely went in the with the mindset that we were the underdogs and that played to our advantage,” said Rajpal, whose brother Kabir won the county doubles title alongside Rajesh last year. “We said we were just going to go out there and play our natural game. Eli said we had nothing to lose and we played like that. His volleys in the first couple of games really set the tone for us. As the points went on, we felt like we had the advantage more than they did, and I think that’s the biggest thing.”

After sneaking out the first set in a tiebreaker, the pair built a 4-2 lead in the second set and Rajpal had a chance to serve for a 5-2 lead. It was a long game with a lot of deuce points but it was the Syosset pair who was able to hold serve and keep the Roslyn duo at a distance.

“I think one of the biggest things is we were able to come back, whether it was in that game or the set itself,” added Grossman. “We grinded out points. Preet played so well and really carried me.”

The relationship between the two dates back to when they both tried out for the Syosset team as eighth graders.

“We’ve been rivals, actually,” said Grossman, alluding to when they both made the team three years ago. “But we’ve been playing and practicing together ever since. He knows my game and I know his.”

Syosset head coach Shai Fisher has seen the development and growth of his two players over the years.

Preet Rajpal fires a forehand during the Nassau County doubles final. 

“It reminds me of when they made the team and they didn’t see the time of day on the court,” recalls Fisher. “The amount of time and commitment they’ve put in since then has shown. They paid their dues. The chemistry between them is amazing. They not only complement each other on the court but off the court as well.”

Coming up through the Syosset program prepared the two for success, and the pair made it three straight years that the county doubles champion hailed from Syosset, a streak that was started by Dylan Granat and Daniel Shleimovich two years ago.

“Syosset has such a winning culture that inspires us to play hard every time we step out on the court,” said Rajpal. “I think when you put the Syosset jersey on your chest, you’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing a program that’s been established and has a reputation for winning. We’ve fostered a culture that is competitive but not cut throat. And I think that’s really the key to a successful season.”

In the third place doubles match, Garden City’s Tim Nacca and Patrick Bodovitz qualified for the state tournament with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Josh and Jared Cohen in the third place match.