Friedman seems fated for spotlight


PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- The matter of wrapping up a national tennis title taken care of, Dustin Friedman was trying to make a quick getaway.

After blowing through the boys 14-and-under draw at the Easter Bowl tournament without dropping a set, Friedman, of Owings Mills, wanted to put Palm Springs behind him and get to Los Angeles for the O. J. Simpson trial, or at least see the courthouse where it's taking place.

In the Easter Bowl event, Friedman upheld his top seeding with a 6-2, 6-2 rout of No. 6 William Boyles of Pensacola, Fla., in the final, earning a silver platter. Afterward, as the teachers at Pikesville Middle School who have embarrassed him by asking for his autograph can attest, came the tougher part for Friedman -- attention.

A crew was waiting to interview him for a national cable special on the tournament that will be carried by the Sunshine Network.

"I don't really like it, but I like the competition," said Friedman, who also enjoys playing basketball, though he might not now have the time, the way his tennis is going.

Friedman has won titles in two straight national tournaments, his first-place finish at the Spring Fling in South Carolina factoring into his top seeding at the Easter Bowl, the U.S. Open of the junior circuit.

"It's a little bit of pressure," said Friedman, who played in his first Easter Bowl last year in Miami, where he was unseeded. "At the beginning, I felt overwhelmed. But once I hung out with my friends for a little bit, I felt normal."

In his first match at the Riviera Resort and Racquet Club in Palm Springs, he took the first set 7-5, then wrapped it up with a 6-0 second set. He lost one game in his second-round match, then swept seeds John Williams of Georgia and Andy Roddick of Florida. In the semifinal, he beat unseeded Californian Cody Jackson.

"I've got a big forehand, so when I play aggressively, I play really well," Friedman said. "I'm pretty good mentally -- I don't throw away points."

He is coached by Tommy Bender, who won the Easter Bowl 14s in 1980, and Don Candy, who coached Pam Shriver. Friedman also has the genes for tennis: his mother -- the former Harriet Mayer -- was a Maryland junior champion and was ranked No. 1 in the state for 25 years. She is home with his 5-year-old sister.

Asked by phone how it feels to be reliving junior tennis with her son, his mother laughed and said: "I never went to the nationals!"

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