The mental game is as much a part of tennis as the physical aspect. Dealing with adversity and overcoming setbacks is all part of it.
When Southold/Greenport’s first doubles team of Cole Brigham and Devin Quinones found themselves in a daunting 5-2 hole in a first-set tiebreaker Wednesday, they responded like the champions they are.
Brigham and Quinones not only rallied to win the tiebreaker, 9-7, but after dropping the second set to Miller Place’s Landon Agic and Matt Molinaro, 6-3, they closed things out with a 6-1 victory in the third set at Southold High School.
“You can’t ever think it’s over,” Quinones said. “You just got to keep your head up and just keep playing, and good things happen.”
Miller Place, however, won the non-league contest, 4-3, when senior third singles player Tyler Cohen prevailed over sophomore James Hayes, 6-2, 4-6, 6-0, in the decisive, final match of the day, with all eyes on them.
Brigham and Quinones were paired together as a doubles team for the first time halfway through last season. They bonded well, found success, went on to claim the Suffolk County Division IV doubles championship and finished with an 11-2 record together.
The pair wants to defend their title. Wednesday was their second match together this season, their first being a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Sachem’s Tanay Karnik and Tommy Syron.
Brigham, a junior, and Quinones, a senior, have both improved their games since last year. And they both understand the importance of buckling down when the pressure is on, such as they did by winning that vital tiebreaker.
“That was so big because we lost that second set, so if we didn’t win that tiebreaker in the first set, we would have lost the match there,” said Brigham, who made a remarkable, lightning-quick return at the net of a blast by Agic that prompted “oohs” from his teammates.
“Phenomenal reflexes,” Southold coach Andrew Sadowski remarked after that dazzling return was brought up.
After their intense match ended, Quinones blasted a ball that stuck into fencing surrounding the courts. Call it an exclamation mark.
“I feel like it was all about our mental strength throughout,” Brigham said. “The nice thing about tennis is you can just keep climbing yourself back and back, one point at a time. Even if you’re down by a lot, if you just keep on winning points and keep on working at it, you can work your way back.”
Quinones, with his powerful groundstrokes and crushing overhand, has made tremendous strides since last year. This past summer he spent a month at a camp in Spain, playing five hours a day, every day, he said. And this past winter he played twice a week indoors.
The results of all that work are readily apparent. Quinones has emerged as the best player on the team, even beating twins Xavier and Jacob Kahn, who played first and second singles, respectively, for the First Settlers (3-2) Wednesday.
Quinones said there’s a “huge, huge difference” in his game since last season. “Last year I could barely compete with Xavier and Jacob Kahn, and this year I beat them both,” he said.
The Kahns both won in two-setters Wednesday. Xavier defeated Anthony Rastelli, 6-4, 6-2, and Jacob beat Christian Plunkett, 6-2, 6-0.
Other matches went Miller Place’s way. Wade Tucker topped Calvin Karsten in fourth singles, 6-4, 6-2. In second doubles, Michael DiPersio and Zach Guasto were 6-2, 6-2 winners over Ryan Fulda and Van Karsten. The third doubles duo of Colin Brennan and Tyler Gray triumphed over Matt Messana and Ethan Vandenburgh, 6-2, 6-4.
Miller Place is 6-1.
Southold’s only other loss was also by a 4-3 score to another strong team, Westhampton Beach.
“They’re doing well,” Sadowski said of his players. “We need to play with a little more intensity at the right time in matches so we can rise above opponents. With tennis, you lose one point, the game’s not over. It’s not over, and I think that’s one thing the boys have to deal with and believe in.”
Brigham and Quinones have shown they are believers.
Photo caption: Devin Quinones, one half of Southold/Greenport’s first doubles team, has improved his game through offseason work. (Credit: Bob Liepa)