It appears that Sameer Gangoli took a step backward when you look at it on paper.
The junior tennis star won the PIAA Class 3A state singles title as a sophomore, but Great Valley lost the state team championship to Unionville.
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This season, Gangoli turned things around.
Gangoli lost to Fox Chapel’s Robby Shymansky in a three-set match in the 3A singles final, but he led the Patriots to a team title by upending Radnor, 3-1.
It was sweet satisfaction.
“Especially coming into the [team] finals the last two years and losing, if I could give us another chance to win it, it meant more to me and to the team for us to get to the finals [and win],” Gangoli said. “I would say if I had to lose one match to [Shymansky], I’d rather it be the state finals for individuals than the team final.”
Gangoli defeated Shymansky, 3-6, 6-4, 7-4 (4), in the team semifinals a week before he lost to him in the singles final.
After Gangoli lost the first set, Great Valley’s coach Paul Waltz said he wasn’t worried.
“He really stays in a match,” Waltz said. “If things aren’t going well right away, he doesn’t let that bother him. He’ll fight to the very end.”
Gangoli, ranked 44th in the nation and second in Pennsylvania by tennisrecruiting.net, said he used his
previous experience at states to relax on his way to helping Great Valley win the team championship. He said it helped him play his best tennis.
“I really felt confident in all my shots and that as a team we worked really hard to get here,” he said. “It was about finishing it and getting our best results possible. I think, for me, to play my best I played as free as possible with no pressure and really striving to win.”
Gangoli acknowledged that playing an opponent within a week can be difficult, especially when the talent gap isn’t wide.
“He’s one of the best players in the country, so for me to lose that match to him, it was a very tough match,” he said, referring to Shymansky. "I’m sure he spent some time going over it because we both knew that we were probably going to face each other in the finals.”
As for losing in the singles final, it was easier to take after winning the team title.