A year ago, Ryan Fishback came up short in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Singles final, falling to Oyster Bay’s Patrick Maloney in straight sets.
The Geneva junior would not be denied this year, however, as he defeated Syosset’s Kabir Rajpal 6-0, 3-6, 6-2 to win the title on Saturday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
“It’s funny because on our credentials this year was the player I lost to last year. So right from the beginning there was that reminder, and I knew I didn’t want to finish in second again,” said Fishback. “Today after losing the second set, and after playing such a good first set, it would have been easy to throw in the towel. I really had to grind to win that third set.”
After Fishback won the match’s first six games to race through the opening set, Rajpal responded in the second. He broke in the first game to get on the board, and would break Fishback twice more in order to take the second set and force a deciding third.
“I’m happy with how I played, especially after that first set,” said Rajpal. “He was on fire, and it didn’t look like he was going to let up; it looked like it was going to be a blowout. But I stayed in it. I kept my mental toughness and fought out that second set.”
The two traded games early in the second set, but from 2-2 Fishback began to pull away. He made some adjustments in the decider and began to dictate the play more often, and rattled off the match’s final four games to capture the NYSPHSAA crown.
“I think it’s easy to let things get out of control, but I tried to switch up my tactics,” said Fishback. “I moved him around a little more as opposed to just trying to hit through him. He hits so hard from the baseline so I just tried to move him around and make him uncomfortable.
I know how good he is from the baseline, so I knew I couldn’t just play from behind the baseline. I really tried to step into the court and get into net as much as possible, and I had some success doing so.”
For Rajpal, while he had his chances in the third set, and the loss is a disappointing finish to a dominant season for the Syosset junior, he is able to take many positives away from his run.
“I’d like to finish better. Hopefully be in better shape next year to be able to pull out that final stretch. But kudos to him, he deserves it,” said Rajpal. “I just tried to compete as hard as I could to make this a competitive match.
This was so much fun. Obviously I’d like to win, but this was so much fun. It definitely motivates me to come back stronger next year. I’m proud of how I played.”
Syosset head coach Shai Fisher echoed those sentiments.
“It was just a phenomenal effort from him,” said Fisher. “He was able to turn things around. He got a lot more aggressive in the second set and started to control the match a bit more. He played with no fear and really battled. I’m proud of him, the way he battled and showed that resiliency. It definitely sets him up better going down the line.”
In the third-place match, Jamesville-Dewitt’s Peter Hatton defeated Ryo Sakai of Keo 6-4, 6-2.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.