Stephan Gershfeld is putting some exclamation points on his high school tennis career by three-peating as the Nassau County champion last Friday afternoon. But the latest one may have been the toughest to achieve.
The Hewlett senior and defending New York State singles champion willed his way to victory at Eisenhower Park, overcoming five opponents and injuries late in the tournament to continue his county supremacy. The final against Jericho’s Ajer Sher proved more to be a battle of wills before Gershfeld escaped with a 6-0, 6-3 win and the title.
“I’m feeling very confident [and] motivated to move on to states and see what damage I can do at the state tournament,” he said.
Gershfeld missed four matches this spring because of various ailments, but still went 10-0 to push his undefeated streak to three high school seasons. And mentally, he felt more pressure to defend his county title a second time.
“You have more pressure because everyone’s coming for you now,” he explained. “You have the biggest target on your back. Not even because I was the one seed, but because I have the title already twice and defended it once.”
The first three rounds of the county tournament took place on May 21 and Gershfeld easily got by those with sweeps in both 10-game pro sets and a 6-1, 6-2 triumph in the quarters. Only Ansh Chadha stood in the way of another trip to the finals and the Syosset star only managed to win just four games against Gershfeld during their history.
But Chadha was determined to knock off the champ – he told Gershfeld before that match that he was “ready for him” – and used several backhand winners, strong serves and aggressive play to take a 4-1 lead in the first set and send Gershfeld reeling.
“He was struggling,” Hewlett coach Joyce Raikos said. “Ansh came out on fire and he was playing great. Stephan has never really had a challenging match prior to that.”
Gershfeld was able to turn the pressure back on Chadha and rallied to win 7-5 before posting a 6-4 win in the second.
“[I felt] relief to get through it and proud of myself that I was able to really break someone down when they’re playing their best tennis and understand how to get out of hard situations,” he said.
Gershfeld won the first set of the final 6-0 and had a comfortable 4-0 lead in the second when cramps and a wrist injury that had plagued him during the season took over. But Sher began dealing with his cramps and Gershfeld took advantage to seal the victory.
Gershfeld is already preparing for the state tournament and said his wrist was “doing OK.” But regardless of what happens, Raikos said Gershfeld has already left a lasting legacy with the program.
“It’s been a great run,” Raikos said. “I know I’m never going to have another player like him as long as I coach. Three years winning counties is a huge accomplishment and hopefully we can make another run at states again.”