BERGER LOSES FINAL, BUT WINS THE WAR
The Miami Herald
Monday, April 4, 1983
Unseeded Jay Berger is probably the happiest loser in the 16-year history of the Olympus Easter Bowl Tennis Tournament. He soundly lost the 16-and-under final to Ricky Brown, 6-2, 6-3, Sunday at Laver's International Resort in Delray Beach, but he earned a much bigger victory in the week leading up to the final.
At last year's Easter Bowl tournament, a showcase of the nation's best junior players, a serious injury to Berger's right knee forced him out in the second round. A doctor told Berger that he might never play tennis again.
Wrong. After surgery, and seven months of off-court rehabilitation, Berger, a 16-year-old junior at Plantation High, is defintely back. Unranked last year, he was refused entry into the Orange Bowl Tournament and barely made it into the 292- player Easter Bowl draw.
The rebuilt Berger soon proved he belonged back among the nation's best, knocking off the No. 11, No. 2, and No. 8 seeds to reach the championship match.
"I was surprised to be playing him," said Brown, the No. 1 seed, after the 80-minute final. "He was moving like a rabbit. It didn't seem like there was much wrong with his knee."
Brown, 16, of Brentwood, Tenn., controlled the match with a powerful serve (four aces) and crushing overheads, but Berger won over the South Florida crowd -- inundated with his friends and neighbors from Plantation.
"The crowd got me pumped up," Brown said. "I love it when they're against you. I enjoyed beating him in front of his own crowd."
Berger, a scrappy player partial to topspin lobs and finesse dropshots, didn't appear too upset by the loss. "Ricky played well, and I played well." he said. "He just played better than me today."
Once ranked in the nation's top 10 in the 12-and-under and 14-and-under divisions, Berger hopes to repeat the feat this year in the 16s. Two years ago, he reached the 14-and-under Orange Bowl final before losing, his top accomplishment before this week.
"I think this tournament is a little bit more meaningful
because of my rehabilitation," Berger said. "Maybe I proved to everyone else what I already knew myself -- that I am back and they better watch out."
In the girls' 16-and-under final, 13-year-old Stephanie Rehe fended off Colinne Bartell, 15, in a 2 1/2-hour marathon, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Rehe, the nation's top-rated 14-and-under player from Highland, Calif., maintained a steady, unflappable pace while Bartell's play vacillated from hot to cold.
"I just tried to be too aggressive," said Bartell, a short, stocky player from Lodi, Ohio. "I had never played her before. I think she's one of the steadiest players around, and very mentally tough."
Rehe, a svelte 5-9, is coached by Robert Lansdorf, who used to instruct Tracy Austin.
"She was hitting really hard shots," Rehe said, "and I was just trying to be steady. I hung in there, and she made a lot more errors in the third set."
In the girls' 14-and-under championship match, Halle Cioffi of Knoxville, Tenn., defeated Susan Sloan of Lexington, Ky., 6-3, 7-5.
The longest match of the seven-day tournament came in the playoff for third place in the boys' 14-and-under draw. Tom Blackmore of Rolling Hill, Calif., and David Wheaton, of Excelsior, Minn., played for four hours and 35 minutes Saturday before Blackmore won, 6-2, 3-6, 23-21.
In other matches late Saturday: Aaron Krickstein of Grosse Point, Mich., defeated Bill Stanley of Rye, N.Y., 6-4, 7-5, in the boys' 18-and-under final; Terry Phelps of Larchmont, N.Y., topped Leigh Anne Eldredge of Altadena, Calif., 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, to win the girls' 18 title; and Chris Garner of Bayshore, N.Y., beat Miami's Greg Levine, 6-2, 7-5, in the boys' 14 championship match.