Sometimes it's just not your day. On the same afternoon a Montana prep softball team witnessed one of the worst losses imaginable unfold before their eyes — a dropped third strike turned walkoff "home run" — Eastchester (N.Y.) High senior tennis standout Taiyo Hamanaka suffered a similarly difficult defeat.
After winning a hard-fought first set 7-6, Hamanaka led Webster-Schroeder sophomore Matt Gamble 5-1 in the second and seemed poised to capture the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's prestigious boys' singles state championship, according to The Journal News.
Only, Hamanaka's body failed him. According to the Journal News, his left thigh began cramping, causing him to collapse in pain. After an NYSPHSAA medical trainer attended to the Eastchester senior, he resumed play, eventually reaching match point, and then his entire body started cramping. As a result, Gamble pulled within 5-2 and took a quick 15-love lead before Hamanaka collapsed in pain again.
Game. Set. Match. According to NYSPHSAA rules, Hamanaka could not receive further medical attention and return to play, so he had to retire due to injury, crowning Gamble as the state champion by default.
"I'm excited that I won states, but obviously I would've liked to win the match rather than win by default," Gamble admitted to The Journal News, adding, "I hope he gets better soon, and I'll text him."
While an ambulance was called to the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing, Queens, it did not arrive before Hamanaka and his mother left the stadium. When reached via phone by The Journal News, the teen self-diagnosed a torn left calf muscle. NYSPHSAA certified athletic trainer Joe Abruzzo also suspected severe dehydration on a day when temperatures reached 72 degrees in New York City.
After two straight top-three finishes at states as a sophomore and junior, including a runner-up finish in 2013, this was Hamanaka's best shot at an elusive state championship. Still, he remained poised.
"I think that was one of the best matches I played this year," Hamanaka told the paper. "When I was serving at 4-1, my left thigh was hurting me a little bit. I didn't want (Gamble) to see I was hurting. ... Even if I knew I'd cramp up at the end again, I'd probably still play (the match) again."
(h/t USA Today)