The third installment of the New York Open once again brings professional tennis to Long Island and for Brian Shi, this year’s tournament will certainly be one he will not forget.
Shi, a Jericho native and a sophomore at Harvard University, will take to the black courts of NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum and compete in his first ever ATP World Tour match. Shi earned the main draw entry by way of winning the New York Open College Wild Card Invitational at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.
“I’ve thought about it every night since winning that last match, I’m going to do everything I can do to be prepared,” said Shi. “Being able to play near my hometown, just minutes from where I grew up and in front of friends and family, is indescribable.”
Shi had to advance through five rounds in the Wild Card Invitational, first taking out Brown’s Robert Siniakowicz 6-2, 6-0 in the opening round before receiving a walk over when top-seed Aleksandar Kovacevic of Illinois was forced to withdraw with an injury.
Up next was eighth-seed Evan Bynoe, a junior from Cornell, and Shi came through with a 6-2, 6-1 victory, before defeating Columbia’s Austen Huang 6-4, 6-4 and securing his spot in the championship match.
Awaiting him in the finals was a familiar opponent: his Harvard teammate and second-seed Ronan Jachuck.
“It’s always tough playing a teammate and friend,” said Shi. “We’re as comfortable with each other’s games as anyone can be considering we practice nearly every day together. We had very different fall seasons heading into this tournament; he played great, and I was injured and was unable to really play any tournaments. So going into the match I did feel like kind of the underdog, and because of that I felt like I was able to play more freely and go for my shots.”
The match would be decided by just a few points as Shi edged Jachuck 7-6, 7-6 to win the tournament and book his spot in the New York Open main draw.
“We both played great, it just came down to a few of those big points,” said Shi. “The match could have gone either way, and maybe I just got lucky on a few of those big points, but I felt like I put myself in a good position to get lucky…I think it shows how good our Harvard team can be this season, to have two of us playing in the finals of a tournament featuring the best collegiate players in the northeast. It really gives us confidence as a team heading into this season.”
Shi now prepares for the biggest match of his life, up to this point, as he is scheduled to play in the Night Session on Tuesday, February 11, New York Open’s College Night.
“I don’t think I am going to change up my routine; it’s still tennis,” said Shi, talking about his preparation for his New York Open debut. “Even though the guy on the other side of the net is a lot more accomplished than I am, he’s still human and he’ll be hitting the same tennis ball as I am. It feels good to be completely healthy, and I am going to do everything I can to be prepared.”
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.