WHEN 13-YEAR-old Jordan Freedman lost to Neil Simon of Amherst High in the Erie County Interscholastic Conference tennis finals, it was no disgrace. Simon is rated as one of the top three players in Western New York.
A seventh grader at Mill Middle School, Freedman was eligible to play varsity tennis at Williamsville East. He wound up the No. 1 singles player and was undefeated in dual matches.
His finish in the ECIC championships earned him the distinction of being the second-ranked player in the conference.
Of course, you are probably thinking Freedman is big for his age, and just keeps the ball in play until his opponent misses.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Freedman stands just 5-foot-0 and weighs 85 pounds. He looks as if a gentle breeze could knock him down, but his consistency and power are equivalent to most 18-year-olds in the area.
"I'd seen him play and thought that he was a remarkable player for his age," said Harold Schnitzer, his coach at Williamsville East. "I thought he might even be good enough to play first singles for us.
"Of course, we had a challenge round robin to see who would play No. 1. Freedman worked his way to the top. He earned his position. He's even improved from the beginning of the season. He's more aggressive and is coming to the net more."
Freedman's No. 1 position was envied by some players on the team.
"Some of the players, including myself, were a little upset when we found out Freedman would be playing," admitted third singles player Mark Farber.
"Even worse was the fact he was a cocky little kid when practice first started. But he's matured a lot. He realizes that he must be part of the team.
"The bottom line is that he's a fine player, and he helped us win some team matches that we probably would not have won if he hadn't been playing."
Freedman has always been a fierce competitor. Russ Tringali, the Amherst Hills tennis pro who has molded Freedman's game, has stressed that Freedman be fair, but assertive.
Even in Freedman's very first tournament match, at the age of 10, he walked up to the line judge to question the first close call that went against him. Although Freedman still gets upset about line calls, his game -- mentally and physically -- has improved.
He gives much of the credit to Tringali, who works with him three times a week.
Freedman was apprehensive about playing for Williamsville East but Tringali thought it would be an excellent opportunity. Tringali felt there weren't many players his age who could give him a good match.
He felt playing high school tennis would motivate Freedman to practice hard and stay mentally sharp.
"I had a lot of fun and enjoyed playing for Williamsville East and coach Schnitzer," said Freedman, ranked 13th in the 14-and-under division in the East.
"I know that some of the players were upset when I first went out for the team. I really get along well with most of them. They'll even give me a ride to and from the matches."