The opponent and coach were talking like the match was in the bag.
Even those on Andrew Kabacy’s side thought the Skyview junior wouldn’t survive the semifinals at the Class 4A state tennis championships.
“I remember my parents and all my friends in the crowd were thinking ‘it’s over. He gave it a good effort,’ Kabacy said.
But one person believed he could still win. That was Andrew Kabacy.
He believed even though he had lost the first set 6-1.
He believed even when he trailed 5-3 in the second set. He survived five match points in one game that he trailed 40-0.
He believed even when he faced a 5-3 deficit in the third-set tiebreaker, where first to seven wins.
“I can’t put in all this work and have it go nowhere,” Kabacy said. “I just eliminated all distractions around me, focused in and got it done.”
Kabacy overcame long odds to win that semifinal against Kyle Fager of Lewis and Clark last month in Richland.
Three hours later, he survived a first-set loss to win the state championship match 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 over Derek Chao of Issaquah.
Kabacy’s singles title also allowed Skyview to win the state championship as a team.
For his accomplishments, Kabacy is The Columbian’s All-Region boys tennis player of the year for a second time.
Kabacy hadn’t won a match in two previous trips to the state championships. An ankle injury put a damper on his previous appearance.
After losing just three matches in the regular season last fall, Kabacy entered the state championships with a whole winter of training and full health on his side.
He won both matches on the first day at state. But the semifinals saw him facing long odds. In the first round and quarterfinals, only three players had lost the first set and rebounded to win.
“Tennis isn’t a timed sport,” Kabacy said. “It’s not over until it’s over. You can always come back.”
One point at a time, Kabacy refused to accept defeat.
“I just told myself, you’re going to do whatever it takes,” he said. “So that extra 10 percent more effort just helped me win.”
After his semifinal rally, Kabacy ate, rehydrated and rested. Three hours later, he again had to rally after losing the first set.
“I said ‘why can’t I win this?’ Kabacy said. “I just did it last match, why can’t I do it again?”
Again, Kabacy’s focus turned toward each individual point. He was in such a zone that he initially didn’t realize he had won the state title.
“When I won my final point I was like OK, next point,” he said. “It took me a good 5 to 10 seconds to realize that I had won. It was one of the greatest feelings ever.”
Kabacy had overcome two deficits and five hours of grueling tennis against the best players in the state.
The slender 6-footer admits he’s “no Captain America.” But his strongest power on the final Saturday in May was above the neck.
“In that situation it’s less physical and more mental,” he said. “You just have to put whatever aside and push your way through.”