A Match to Remember for Junior Feldman
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | August 7, 2017
KALAMAZOO, MI- It was a match that 15-year-old Sam Feldman, of Brookline, MA, will never forget. No, he did not win, nor did he even come close according to the scoreboard, but to him, it was bigger than that.
“This motivates me because I know that where I am now is not going to get me anywhere. It has gotten me this far, but it’s not going to get me any further unless I work to improve,” Feldman said.”
Feldman lost 0-6, 0-6 on Sunday to No. 1 overall seed Brandon Nakashima, of San Diego, CA, in the second round of the Boys’ 16s National Championships on the Stowe Courts at Kalamazoo College (the tournament’s show courts).
Feldman made the jump from the 14s division to the 16s this spring, and quickly he climbed up the ranks. He lost in the quarterfinals of New England Sectionals to the eventual champion, Matthew Kandel, and held the No. ADVERTISEMENT 9 spot in the New England rankings prior to Kalamazoo.
After the match with Nakashima, he put things into perspective.
“It was unreal playing here. The guy I just played today was just too good, for me at least, so it’s good to know where my goals are set, and he’s one goal I hope to reach in the future,” Feldman said.”
Entering the match, Feldman, the heavy underdog, felt no pressure. His focus was to soak up his first Kalamazoo experience with zero expectations.
“I was a little nervous coming into it, walking in and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m playing Brandon Nakashima,’ but there were other matches going on there so the focus wasn’t all on me, so I was able to enjoy the moment and relax,” Feldman said.”
To ease his nerves even more, the young “ball runners” added a unique element to the group of courts Feldman was playing on.
“It’s so relaxing. I could really get used to them,” Feldman said. “When you miss a shot, you go walk 10 feet and don’t have to do anything else. You can stay focused and it really helps you mentally, although there wasn’t much to get mad about in that match.”
After dropping the first set 0-6, a surprisingly calm Feldman found himself at peace with the situation and started to set more attainable goals for himself.
During a changeover, he mumbled, “I just want to take a game.”
“I really wanted a game. It would be amazing if I could go back and say I did better than Brandon Nakashima in one whole game, and I almost got that. I had three break points in one game,” he said.
Feldman added of Nakashima, “There’s no one as good as he is in the 16s, and his backhand is the best I’ve seen in USTA. It’s a weapon. He’s the best player I’ll play in the 16s and definitely the best player I’ll play for a while.”
Even after the match, Feldman maintained a positive attitude, posing for photos at center court with Nakashima, his dad and coach Laury Hammel. Soon after, he swarmed by a group of ball runners who surrounded him in hopes of his autograph.
“It was the first time I’ve ever autographed something for someone, and I noticed how bad my handwriting was,” he said. “It was just an honor that the kids wanted my signature. They’re here volunteering and it seems like they are really enjoying the experience as much as I am.”
“The tournament has been a fun experience so far and I’ve had no pressure and just learned to relax and enjoy the moment,” Feldman added. “I know there are people out there like (Nakashima), and my goal is to get better than them.”