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Siblings rivals no more

Older and wiser now, Citrus' Bret and Nicole Feldman help each other improve on the court.

By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002


INVERNESS -- Nicole Feldman and her little brother, Bret, picked up tennis at the same time, but rarely played together at first.

"When we were kids, we always got mad at each other," Bret said.

That was six years ago.

Today, the heat is gone.

Nicole, a senior, is the No. 1 singles player at Citrus. Bret, a sophomore, plays No. 2 for the Hurricanes. They squabble no more, instead choosing to help the other whenever possible.

"It was more of a rivalry when we were younger, but not any more," Nicole said. "He corrects me sometimes. And sometimes when he gets frustrated on the court, I try to goof around with him and loosen him up."

Nicole, a four-year starter, is 8-6 in singles and 9-6 in doubles, where she teams with Andrea Hanson. Nicole played No. 3 as a freshman and No. 2 the following season. Last year, she moved to No. 1 and earned honorable mention all-area recognition.

"She's a strong baseline player," girls coach Phil Gaffney said. "Her strengths are her groundstrokes and her serve. She moves around the court well."

Nicole tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee last year and missed several matches. She has been injury-free this season, but has yet to play her best.

"I feel like I've gotten frustrated with myself, but districts are coming up so we'll see how I do there," Nicole said.

Bret was a Times All-Citrus/Hernando pick in 2001 after going 12-0 in the regular season. He won a district title at No. 3 singles and did not lose until regionals. He is 14-0 this season.

Bret's strength is his serve-and-volley game.

"He's just consistent," boys coach Doug Patton said.

"He's technically sound. He doesn't have one glaring weak spot. He doesn't double-fault often, and he can hit it good from his forehand and backhand. He's not the kind of guy you're going to find weaknesses and pick on them."

Now, back to that sibling rivalry.

What started it?

"At first, I would beat him and then he started beating me," Nicole said. "That made me mad since I was the older sister. I was a brat."

After a few years, the two matured and settled their differences. They realized they could help each other become better players.

They play together most weekends and, in fact, will team in an upcoming mixed doubles tournament at Citrus Hills.

"Now, I don't mind when he beats me," Nicole said. "I'm really proud of him. He's undefeated the past two years, so I get to brag about him."

-- Times staff writer Keith Niebuhr can be reached at 860-7337 or niebuhr@sptimes.com.

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