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National

Longtime Orange Bowl tournament director Lew Brewer reflects on career

Arthur Kapetanakis | December 13, 2021

You may have seen the infamous 1998 photo of a bleach-blonde Roger Federer lifting the Orange Bowl trophy. But did you know that he only decided to dye his hair the night before the final—and he did it himself.

 

“And he didn’t do a very good job, I might add,” longtime tournament director Lew Brewer said with a laugh.

 

It’s just one of many unique stories from Brewer’s legendary career in junior tennis. This year’s 75th edition of the Orange Bowl was Brewer’s last as a full-time USTA employee, as he is set to retire after a 30-plus year career with the organization.

The South Florida event’s tournament director since ‘98, Brewer has supervised the most famous junior tennis tournament in the world across three locations, from Flamingo Park, to Crandon Park (the former home of the Miami Open), to its current location at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation.

 

First played in 1947—started by Eddie Herr, a Miami Beach drycleaner who wanted to give his daughter a chance to play in a tournament over Christmas break—the Orange Bowl has grown from a “sleepy tournament” filled with local players into an international showpiece.

 

In the 1950s, the event started to attracted players from Cuba and Mexico, Brewer explained. Today, roughly 100 nations are represented each year.

 

Past champions include American greats like John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier and Mary Jo Fernandez, along with international winners including Federer, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Gabriela Sabatini and many more. Through the years, legends from Arthur Ashe to Jennifer Capriati also competed in the event, with Coco Gauff the latest superstar champion in 2018.

 

“This really is the proving ground for the juniors,” said Brewer, pointing to Bianca Andreescu as a recent example of South Florida success translating to the game’s highest level. The Canadian claimed the Orange Bowl title in 2015, then went on to win the US Open in ’19.

 

Vince Spadea won the boys’ title in 1992, Brewer’s first year on the tournament’s staff, but it was an American singles sweep in 2014 that stands out as one of his favorite memories. That year, Sofia Kenin and Stefan Kozlov took the titles, with both living within 15 miles of the Veltri Tennis Center.

 

“To have two Americans, two very local kids winning… that was pretty special,” Brewer reflected. Like Andreescu, Kenin has also gone on to become a Grand Slam champion, winning the Australian Open title just over four years later, in 2019.

Roger Federer dyed his hair blonde the night before winning the 1998 Orange Bowl. Photo Credit: Art Seitz, courtesy Florida Tennis.

More recently, Brewer recalls the undeniable talent of two-time finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas, who was denied one match short of glory in both 2014 and 2015. The Greek would later reach junior world No. 1 before a blossoming pro career that has seen him reach a high of world No. 3.

Lew Brewer presents the inaugural Lew Brewer Award to boys' 18s finalist Bruno Kuzuhara.

 

More than 20 years after presenting the fashionable Federer his ’98 trophy, Brewer heads into retirement after bestowing the 2021 singles titles to Paraguay’s Daniel Vallejo and Croatia’s Petra Marcinko.

 

Read More: 2021 Orange Bowl champions

 

To commemorate Brewer’s years of service to both the Orange Bowl and junior tennis, the Lew Brewer Award was created ahead of the 2021 event. The start of a new tradition, the award will be given each year at the Orange Bowl to one American boy and one American girl that demonstrate excellence on and off the court.

 

Boys’ 18s singles finalist Bruno Kuzuhara (17; Coconut Creek, Fla.) and girls’ competitor Liv Hovde (16; McKinney, Texas) were honored with the inaugural awards.

 

"I've known Lew from every year I've come here to play," said Kuzuhara. "He always runs this tournament so smoothly.

 

“The work he's done for the USTA, I know everyone will remember that."

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