For Stephan Gershfeld, winning a state title was something he always envisioned. Since he can remember, just competing on the U.S. Open courts was a dream of his.
On Saturday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, that became a reality as the Hewlett sophomore captured the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) singles title, defeating Emil Grantcharov of New Rochelle 6-2, 6-2 in the championship match.
“It’s amazing, but it still hasn’t sunk in yet,” Gershfeld said afterwards. “Ever since I was in seventh grade, I dreamed of playing here at the U.S. Open, and now I am a champion here. It’s a dream come true.”
The two-time Nassau County singles champion came out firing in the final, breaking Grantcharov early in the first set and never looking back to take the opener.
In the second set, Grantcharov was able to push deeper into the service games of Gershfeld, and had a chance to break his serve in the fourth game. Gershfeld fought off the potential break though, holding serve to even the set at 2-2, and then proceeded to break Grantcharov in the ensuing game.
“That was definitely a mentally tough game, and just to pull through there kind of gave me the edge,” said Gershfeld. “My confidence grew with it and I was able to take off from there.”
Gershfeld capitalized on the momentum, breaking one more time for a 5-2 lead and creating an insurmountable lead. Serving for the state title, Gershfeld closed it out on his first match point as he ripped a forehand winner past Grantcharov.
“I love how he kept his cool and stayed positive today,” said Hewlett head coach Joyce Narciso-Raikos. “The match was on his racquet to either win or lose, and it’s my job to give him that belief that he is the better player and he was going to win the match. That’s what we have been working on since yesterday, making sure he stayed positive and confident.”
Gershfeld and Grantcharov were familiar with each other, having competed in many different junior tournaments. The state final was the ninth time they played against one another, with each player having won four of the previous eight matches.
“This is a big rivalry, we’ve been playing against each other since we were 10-years-old,” said Gershfeld. “The first time we ever played actually was here at a USTA tournament, and he beat me pretty good. We’ve gone back and forth throughout the years, and I’m glad I was able to win this one.”
Gershfeld’s title continues the success of Hewlett tennis at the state championships in recent years. His older sister Nyla won the state doubles title alongside Rachel Arbitman in 2019. The year before that, Arbitman won the state singles title, and in 2015 it was Hewlett’s Kseniya Zonova who won the singles title.
“We gotta keep the title here at Hewlett,” said Gershfeld. “I’m looking forward to coming back here next year to try and defend it.”
The Ward Melville pairing of Aron Burstzyn & Shashank Pennabadi won the third-place match on Saturday, defeating Chappaqua’s Jason Wei & Matthew Wallis 7-6(1), 6-2.
“This was the last high school match ever for me, so it’s a great way to finish,” said Burstzyn. “Unfortunately we couldn’t win yesterday, but glad we were able to pull through today and end on a win.”
“It was a fun weekend with some challenging matches. We couldn’t pull it out yesterday but we played very well today.”
In the consolation final, Hills East’s Dylan D’Agate & Krithik Madisetty fell to Williamsville East’s Grant Wang & Arjun Pindiprolu in three sets.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for Long Island Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.