NEWCASTLE, Maine — Jordan Friedland has established himself as a talented high school tennis player.
He reached the state singles quarterfinals as both a freshman and sophomore at Lincoln Academy before winning it all last spring after surviving three-set marathons in his semifinal and championship matches.
A year ago Friedland may have been seen as a surprise winner, having entered state play seeded fifth in the final field of 48 contenders before defeating three of the top four seeds to claim the boys’ title.
“It’s definitely going to be as tough as it was last year,” said Friedland, who along with Brunswick High School junior Maisie Silverman are back as reigning state champions.
The state Rounds of 48 and 32 will be played beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday indoors at the Racket & Fitness Center in Portland due to a forecast of inclement weather.
The Round of 16 and quarterfinals follow Monday at the Wallach Tennis Center on the campus of Bates College in Lewiston, with this year’s semifinals and championship matches scheduled for Wednesday, also at Bates.
As much as Friedland has relied on a versatile style of play to rise to the top of the state’s high school tennis ladder, it was his personal radar that proved to be a difference maker a year ago when he rallied past top-seeded and 2011 state champion Patrick Ordway of Portland’s Waynflete School 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 in the semifinals and outlasted second-ranked Justin Brogan of Falmouth 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in the title match.
Against the hard-serving Ordway, Friedland had to retreat ever so slightly on his service return in order to get into more points after dropping the first set. Against the steady Brogan, it was almost the opposite as he had to become more aggressive during the late stages of the final.
Both adjustments worked.
“When I go out on the court, I know it’s within my capacity to win because I have all the shots,” said Friedland. “So when I don’t win, I have to go back and analyze the match because it probably was because I wasn’t doing something correctly.
“Last year in the semifinals and finals, I had to do that analysis while I was on the court.”
Friedland, who began hitting tennis balls as a youngster at the Central Lincoln County YMCA in Damariscotta and started taking lessons at age 12, was active on the U.S. Tennis Association regional circuit during the high school tennis offseason, competing in New England sectional tournaments as well as in regional events that took him to Pennsylvania and Ohio.
He also entered the USTA winter national championships in Arizona, where he dropped a 7-5, 6-4 decision in the first round.
“It was a level a lot higher than I had ever experienced, but in that first match I was able to hold my own,” said Friedland.
Friedland also worked to improve his fitness and strength during the offseason, as well as such tennis-specific skills as his one-handed backhand and serve-and-volley game.
“I want to be able to try to put points away earlier and string together points better,” he said.
In recent months, his tennis attention has returned to his high school team, with impressive regular-season results. Led by Friedland and another qualifier for the Round of 48, Brandon Blake, Lincoln Academy finished the regular season with a 12-0 record and ranked atop the Western Maine Class B Heal point ratings.
“In high school it’s a little different [from USTA events] where you’re a part of a team and have responsibilities to the team and your high school,” he said.
High school team tournament play begins next week, but in the meantime there’s what Friedland has analyzed as a deep boys singles field to try to overcome for the second straight year.
While Brogan opted out of high school competition this spring to focus on USTA play, Ordway and two-time semifinalist Matt Gilman of Cape Elizabeth are back, as are second-seeded Brendan McCarthy of Falmouth — a two-time Round of 16 qualifier — and Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference rival Sam Leeman of Morse of Bath, the fifth seed.
“I always try to be as prepared as I can going into a tennis match,” said Friedland, who will attend Stanford University in the fall. “I try to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of my opponent so on the chance everything is going right for them in a particular match you have to be able to dig yourself out of a hole.”