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A Starting Point for Ross School’s #1

Thu, 06/06/2024 - 12:37
The Ross School's Eduardo Menezes, Suffolk County's singles champion, made it to the quarterfinal round in last weekend's state tournament, the first time in almost half a century that a boys tennis player from here had advanced that far in the state tourney.
Jack Graves

Suffolk County's boys tennis singles champion, Eduardo Menezes, a Brazilian who is a senior at the Ross School, made it to the quarterfinal round of the state tourney played over the weekend on the U.S. Open courts in Flushing, losing 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 to Alexander Suhanitski of New Rochelle, who went on to lose in the final to Geneva's Drew Fishback.

Marcelo Reda, the Ravens' coach -- and the school's athletic director -- said Menezes, who had not lost a set this season until his match with Suhanitski, had acquitted himself well, despite being hampered by a lower back problem for which he'd been treated in the past and which flared up again in the in the quarterfinals' second set, which he lost 6-1.

In a subsequent match for fifth place, Menezes was forced by his injury to forfeit after having lost the first set 6-4, and thus finished eighth. Absent the injury, said Reda, Ross's number-one could well have wound up in the state's top six, a group that he said was more or less interchangeable.

"The level of tennis was very high," Reda continued. "There were kids who were hitting rockets, flat-shot winners from the baseline. . . . Eduardo, who impressed everyone with his speed, was down 2-6 in the tiebreaker and came back to 5-6. On the next point, the other kid hit a down-the-line passing shot out of nowhere."

Still, no player from here has finished as high in a state boys tournament in almost half a century, not since Paul Annacone, who went on to a successful pro tour playing and coaching career, did it as a Shoreham-Wading River eighth grader before moving to East Hampton. And it is worth remembering that Annacone went on to repeatedly defeat Jimmy Gurfein, who had beaten him in the state tourney, in subsequent years.

"Of course, he was sad," Reda said of Menezes, "but I told him it's all part of a process, a process of becoming a better player and a better person. He represented himself and the Ross School very well. We only have around 150 students, boys and girls, in the seventh-through-12th grades. Mark Mensch, Section XI's representative, said in a message he sent me, 'I love that kid,' and told me to take care of him."

"Just to have played on the courts where the U.S. Open is played, where giants have played, I told him, is quite something. . . . He knows that this was a starting point -- he's very excited about tennis now. When it comes to playing at the championship level in sports, it's finite." 

"You learn more, you know, from your losses than from your wins," Reda went on. "The losses teach you to sharpen your tools. Eduardo, who hits heavy topspin, will have to add a flat drive to his repertoire. I'm not saying he has to switch, but he'll have to add that shot. And, in college" -- Menezes is to matriculate at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in the fall -- "he will have to accustom himself to playing multiple matches in a day."

Henry Tietz, a senior, and Leonardo Carmo, an eighth grader, also represented Ross in the state tourney. The county's third-place doubles team won its first match and lost its second. Ward Melville's Harshith and Shashank Pennabadi won the doubles championship.

The Ross team, which recently defeated Bayport-Blue Point 4-3 to win its second county small schools tournament in a row, was in turn edged 4-3 by Friends Academy in the Long Island small school championship match, played at Smithtown East High School on May 28.

A poised seventh grader, Hudson Lee, made the difference as he and Henry Koelmel defeated Ross's Jagger Cohen and Teddy Brodlieb 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (3-7), 6-3 in the pivotal match at third doubles, enabling Friends to win the championship 3-2. Menezes, by a score of 6-0, 6-0, and Tietz and Carmo, by a score of 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5, were Ross's winners that day.

"It was a great match over all -- riveting," said Reda. "I don't think Friends -- they beat us 5-0 last year -- was expecting it. . . . I told our kids that how far they'd come this season, as players and as people, was worth far more to me than winning a championship."

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