The high school tennis players in the Suffolk County Division IV Individual Tournament on Monday had a lot more than just their opponents to worry about. Another factor was at play in a big way: the wind.
On a day when wind gusts in the area were measured at over 40 miles per hour, players struggled to adapt to the difficult conditions at William Floyd High School. Matters were complicated further as the wind kicked up sand from a nearby pile, blowing sand in the eyes of players and spectators alike.
The wind was so bad at times that players swung at the ball — and missed! It happened more than a couple of times. Players’ chairs were blown onto the court a number of times.
“The conditions were unbelievable,” said Shoreham-Wading River senior Chris Kuhnle.
Yet, not even winds of such force were a match for Kuhnle’s venomous forehand or overpowering serve, which he mixed effectively with “offspeed” deliveries. They helped the top-seeded Kuhnle successfully defend his singles title with a 6-4, 6-3 defeat of the No. 2 seed, East Hampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson senior Julian MacGurn, the same player Kuhnle defeated in last year’s final.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Kuhnle, who won his first county title last year before finishing fourth in the state. “I did it again.”
Mattituck’s top two singles players, seniors Garrett Malave and Parker Tuthill, entered the tournament as a doubles team and finished second, matching their seeding. They lost to Ross’ top-seeded Jonas Feurring and Gonzalo Trapote, 6-4, 6-0, in their final.
All the players on the court had to deal with the aggravating wind gusts, which came and went, turning overhead shots into adventures and making lobs for serves unpredictable. That sent players into play-it-safe mode.
“It’s bad,” Malave said of the conditions. “It’s somewhat bearable. It’s not absolutely awful, but it’s bad.”
Tuthill said: “It’s very tough, but you kind of get used to it while you’re playing. You have to play with it.”
When did Kuhnle realize the wind would be as much of an issue as it was?
“The second I got here,” he said. “I was like, ‘Wow!’ ”
Kuhnle (20-0), Shoreham’s most accomplished boys tennis player, dealt with it. Despite the adversity, he played a clean match, committing only one double fault and one unforced error to beat MacGurn for the third time this season.
After a return by MacGurn sailed too far at match point, Kuhnle allowed himself a restrained fist pump. It wasn’t his normal game, but it worked, nonetheless.
“It’s tough,” Kuhnle said. “I really had to change my game. I’m not able to hit the shots that I like to hit. It annoys me, but you got to deal with it. You don’t have the time to wind up. The ball is changing every second.”
Shoreham coach Debbie Lutjen called the playing conditions the most difficult she can recall. “Considering the conditions, he did the best that he could,” she said of Kuhnle. “I think you would have seen a much more aggressive player if it wasn’t as windy, but it was so unpredictable, it was hard to play your usual. You have to adjust to the conditions, and he did. He did what he had to do.”
Kuhnle did not drop a game in his first three tournament matches. Then, he beat Eastport-South Manor’s Alex Reiley, 6-1, 6-2, in a semifinal.
In doubles, Malave and Tuthill were extended to three sets in the semifinals before finishing off Westhampton Beach’s Raj Ghjayalod and Sam Santora, 6-3, 1-6, 6-0. Then they ran into trouble in the final, their first loss in seven matches as a double team.
“Today the wind gave them a big problem,” Mattituck coach Mike Huey said. “They just couldn’t get on track today.”
After his final, Kuhnle was presented with the huge singles bracket as a memento. He was asked what’s the best thing about being a division singles champion?
“It’s a nice title to have,” he said. “That’s about it. The best part about being a division champ is saying you’re a division champ.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River senior Chris Kuhnle dealt with difficult wind conditions en route to his second straight Division IV singles championship. (Credit: Garret Meade)