For Phil Myers, Thursday began teaching lessons to youngsters for about four hours at Wisehaven Tennis Center.
It served as a bit of a distraction for what loomed at 5 p.m., when he and Nathan Gambino were set to resume the men's singles championship match of the York City-County Tennis Tournament at York City's Farquhar Park.
The match was suspended Wednesday because of lightning with the competitors tied 6-6 in the second set. Myers had won Wednesday's first set in a tiebreaker, 7-6. And he and Gambino began a sunny and muggy Thursday evening with another tiebreaker.
Gambino, a 2009 Dallastown High School graduate appearing in his first York-City County title match, needed to win the second tiebreaker to force a third set. He did so by taking the tiebreaker by a three-point margin. Gambino then won the first two games of the third set. Suddenly, some negative thoughts began to creep into the head of Myers, a 2007 York High grad who was appearing in his third-straight City-County men's singles final, having lost each of the last two years.
"Yes. It did. For sure. That's the last thing you want to think about," Myers said. "I'm like, 'this has got to be my year, right?' I was just trying to will myself to move the ball around the court and make shots."
Myers, a 2012 York College grad and former Spartans' tennis player, then changed his plan of attack by sitting back on the baseline and reacting to Gambino. The strategy worked. Gambino and Myers went to a third tiebreaker. Gambino again went back up by a pair of points two times. However, Myers eventually won the deciding tiebreaker, 10-8. The official score would read Myers beating Gambino, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6.
"Tightest, most intense, craziest match," Myers said. "It was the most emotional ups and downs I've ever had in a match. I've played some good three-setters. I've played some tight two-setters before. This was definitely up there as the one by far."
The result proved to be a heartbreaker for Gambino, who had quite a journey to get back to this high level of play. Surgery two years ago to remove his large intestine and repair his small intestine solved his issues with ulcerative colitis he had dealt with most of his life. Since leaving Dallastown, he's gone from Penn State York to Penn State's main campus, switched majors, transferred to Bloomsburg in hopes of playing tennis there, but instead didn't see the court because of academic struggles and is now considering transferring to West Chester to play tennis and finish out the final three semesters of his bachelor's degree in exercise science. Gambino might also need surgery to his right shoulder and played through pain all week.
"We don't know yet. I'm getting an MRI here in a couple days," Gambino said. "We'll see. They think I have a partially torn labrum."
Gambino practiced with a friend for an hour before Thursday's match on the courts at Springettsbury Township Park and seemed to have all the momentum when he and Myers squared off for the final at Farquhar Park.
"I had a game plan. He had a game plan. I executed mine first and he finished it," Gambino said. "We just held it until one of us finished it. There's no regrets. We played a hell of a match."
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.