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Notebook

Some 60 Years of History Missing in 99th Edition

April 23, 1999|STEVE HENSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

OJAI — At first glance, nothing much seems different at "The Ojai," among the most traditional of tournaments and celebrating its 99th year.

But around Libbey Park, where tournament headquarters are adjacent to center court, some familiar faces are missing.

Foremost is Fred Lamb, tournament director of 40 years and Ojai icon, who passed away at 75 in June. Lamb first played in the tournament in 1938 and served in innumerable volunteer capacities until last year.

Lamb, a Yale graduate and longtime history teacher and tennis coach at Thacher School in Ojai, resigned as tournament director in 1996 after Parkinson's disease began to takes its toll. He continued to help out any way he could.

"He is dearly missed," said Norm Blacher, who replaced Lamb as tournament director. "His trademark red and pink pointed hats won't be forgotten, and his leadership will be hard to replace."

Lamb, who coached Thacher to seven Southern Section and 22 league championships, was inducted into the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.

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Bob and Mike Bryan weren't part of "The Ojai" for as long as Lamb, it only seems that way.

They too are absent this year, having finally outgrown the tournament after winning championships at youth and college levels. Ojai was home away from home for the twins, who as a junior doubles team won 116 consecutive games.

The Bryans left Rio Mesa High for Stanford, but always returned to The Ojai, where their shy nature and stellar play made them crowd favorites.

"Those boys are special people," one tournament official said. "They represent what we try to make this all about."

Before becoming touring professionals last year, the Bryans finished their Ojai run with a flourish, winning the Pacific 10 Conference doubles championship.

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Marissa Irvin of Stanford, ranked No. 3 in the nation, stormed through the first day of competition.

Irvin, from Harvard-Westlake High, defeated Francesca La'o of California, 6-2, 6-3, and Patrycja Gajdzik of Washington, 6-3, 6-4, to advance to the quarterfinals.

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Teams from the region are on a collision course in the boys' Southern Section doubles division.

In first-round matches, No. 2-seeded Nicholas Weiss and Alex Menichini of Calabasas routed Charles Doa and Michael Peng of El Dorado, 6-0, 6-1, and Prakash Amritraj and David Frankel of Harvard-Westlake beat Denis Kolenvic and John Wertz of Point Loma, 6-3, 6-2.

If both teams survive matches today, Weiss and Menichini will meet Amritraj and Frankel on Saturday in a semifinal.

"Weiss is a big-time player and that would be a great match," Amritraj said. "I'd look forward to that one."

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By rights, Travis Rettenmaier of Camarillo should roll into the final of the boys' 16 division. He is defending champion, is top-seeded and is ranked No. 160 in the world in the 18 and under division.

Rettenmaier got off to a good start, beating Alex Anselme of Santa Monica, 6-0, 6-3.

Freshman Stephen Amritraj of Crespi, Prakash's cousin, is one match away from playing Rettenmaier. The No. 5-seeded Amritraj beat Patrick Buchanan of Fullerton, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 and must beat Andrew James of San Diego at 8 a.m. today to meet Rettenmaier in the quarterfinals at 2 p.m.

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