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Disappointed Son Doesn't Rise in Ojai

Tennis: Brett Van Linge, hoping to join his father as a champion, instead is eliminated, 6-2, 6-2, by Venice's Melnick in the first round.

April 26, 2002|LAUREN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Like father, like son?

Brett Van Linge wished.

Trying to continue a family tradition of tennis success, Brett Van Linge, an Irvine Woodbridge High senior, lost Thursday in the first round of the CIF interscholastic singles division of the 102nd Ojai tournament.

The 6-2, 6-2 loss to Jeff Melnick of Venice ended Van Linge's effort to become an Ojai champion like his father, Jerry, who won doubles titles in the men's open invitational division in 1977, '79, '80 and '81.

"I'd love to see myself do that," Brett said, shaking his head at his father's achievement.

"I knew that I had to play well to win and it was just a bad day. But you're gonna have days like that."

Brett, the No. 1 player on Woodbridge's team, has had more of those days than his dad did at Ojai.

Brett lost in the second round last year, and he was hoping to get at least that far this year.

"It's frustrating," he said, "but it's a tough tournament."

His father understands stiff competition. Besides the four doubles titles he won with two partners, he also lost in the men's open singles final in 1980 to Pasadena resident Tom Leonard, with whom Jerry teamed to win his last three Ojai doubles titles.

"I used to [play] right here," Jerry said as he watched Brett complete his match at Thacher School. "It brings back the memories."

They are mostly good ones for Jerry, if not Brett, who said, "I had a really slow start and never really got a rhythm going today."

Actually, he did, but it was all wrong. He was broken twice in the first three games and trailed, 0-4, before finally taking a game off Melnick.

"When that happened, I pretty much looked forward to finishing the set and hoped the second one would be better," Brett said. "It's hard to see that, but I'll try to learn from this and then put it behind me."

The match was difficult for Jerry Van Linge to watch. "[Brett's] fighting himself right now, not this guy," he said. "He can hit all the shots, although today you wouldn't know it."

In high school competition this season, Brett is 48-6 in sets. His losses have been primarily to higher-ranked opponents.

"The difference between him and those guys is a couple points," Woodbridge Coach Ric Barth said. "He's got to pick his spots, and he's got to be able to win the big points more consistently."

Brett has eschewed most junior tournaments this year in favor of working out on his own and with his father, who is his primary coach.

With Brett leading the way, Woodbridge (14-5, 7-0), ranked No. 9 in The Times' poll, is closing in on its third consecutive Sea View League title. The Warriors were runners-up to Irvine University in the Southern Section Division II playoffs last season.

Brett, who will attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on a tennis scholarship next season, and Jerry, who still teams with Leonard to form one of the top men's 45 and men's 50 age-group doubles teams in Southern California, often join forces in father-son tournaments. The Van Linges advanced to the round of 16 in last year's USTA Father-Son National Championships.

"I'm not going to get any better, but as he improves, our team gets better," Jerry said.

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