Jordan Friedland had high hopes for last year’s high school tennis state singles championships, at least until a thumb injury required him to wear a small cast on his right hand.
Despite that physical impediment, Friedland reached the quarterfinals for the second straight year.
This year there were no such obstacles in the Lincoln Academy of Newcastle junior’s way, just a talented field of opponents led by defending champion Patrick Ordway of Waynflete of Portland, returning finalist Justin Brogan of Falmouth and 2011 semifinalist Matt Gilman of Cape Elizabeth.
And this year the fifth-seeded Friedland conquered all in becoming the first player from his school to win the state singles crown — defeating three of the tournament’s top four seeds on his way to the title.
“Last year I had sprained my thumb two weeks before playing basketball,” said Friedland, who defeated No. 12 Patrick Stewart of Bangor 6-4, 6-3 and No. 4 Tyler Adams of Bonny Eagle of Standish 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday to advance to Monday’s semifinals at Colby College in Waterville. “So I made sure not to do anything stupid before this tournament.”
Friedland displayed the most versatile game of any of the final four players in the field, and he needed all of those resources to eliminate the top-ranked Ordway in a three-set semifinal and then outlast Brogan in a three-set championship match.
In his 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Ordway, the resident of Damariscotta Mills concentrated on returning the Waynflete junior’s powerful serve.
Against Brogan, neither player was able to control the match on serve during the final two sets, but Friedland’s ability to come up with baseline winners as well as work his way into the net proved a little too much for the Falmouth sophomore.
“Out of nowhere he came up with a lot of big shots, and that didn’t allow me to get in a groove,” said Brogan. “He ran a lot of balls down.”
Friedland’s ability to change the pace of his rallies with a blend of topspin and slice shots proved invaluable, particularly against the second-seeded Brogan.
“He did a great job of slicing it short and drawing me in,” said Brogan after Friedland’s 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 championship-match victory. “I had a hard time with it because it left me in a vulnerable position.”
It’s such variety that Friedland has developed in an effort to diversify his game and enhance his ability to construct individual points.
“I’ve worked on my slice for a couple of years now and I feel like I can maneuver it around the court a little bit,” he said. “I can slice it deep, or if the other guy’s moving back I can chip it short. I can come in on it and I guess it’s just another addition to my shot repertoire.”
Another area of improvement for Friedland — also the state’s top player in the USTA’s New England 18-and-under ranks — concerns the mental part of the game.
“I think I don’t check out of points as much as I used to,” he said. “I still did sometimes [Monday] because it was such a physical match, but I’m trying to stay focused better.”
Ellsworth sweeps PVC doubles titles
While the state singles tournament was being concluded in Waterville over the weekend, the best tennis doubles teams in the Penobscot Valley Conference gathered in Caribou on Saturday to crown champions.
Teams from Ellsworth High School swept the titles, with Brandan Albee and Dustin Murphy winning the boys crown and Jessica Toothaker and Rachel Ball winning the girls championship.
Albee and Murphy, undefeated this spring as the top doubles team for the undefeated Eagles, defeated Ellsworth teammates Evan and Alec Toothaker 8-6 in the semifinals before topping Andrew Dalton and Caleb Clough of Mount Desert Island 8-6 in the boys final.
Toothaker and Ball outlasted Alexa Massey and Erin Patton of Caribou 9-7 in their girls semifinal before topping Madeline Brown and Caroline Cook of MDI 6-2, 6-3 in the final.