Westview's Neena Feldman is making her mark on the tennis court
Tennis isn't just a game for Westview's Neena Feldman — it's a tool that she says has helped her succeed far beyond the court.
"I really like both the mental and physical aspect of it," Feldman said. "You really have to be able to deal with a lot of different things coming at you and that's really helped me through my life, especially just being able to handle tough situations and knowing that I have confidence in myself.
"I really value that a lot about the sport."
The Wildcats junior has been playing the game for almost 10 years. She has used that decade of hard work and competition to earn Oregon's No. 1 ranking, along with a No. 3 ranking in the Northwest and a No. 71 ranking nationally.
Feldman is a five-star college prospect according to Tennis Recruiting Network, and her Westview coach, Tom Lefor, didn't lack superlatives when describing the state's top-ranked girls player earlier this season.
"I think the sky's the limit for her," Lefor told OSAA Today. "She's just very, very strong. She's one of the more powerful players not only that I've coached, but I've seen play the game. She's right up there with some of the best I've seen out of Jesuit. Just a very, very solid game, and she doesn't beat herself."
Feldman — whose mother is Chinese — was born in Beijing but has spent the bulk of her life here in Oregon. She said she that she got her first taste of the game at age 8 and fell in love with the sport.
She trained at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center until her freshman year, when she began working with University of Portland men's head tennis coach Aaron Gross.
Three times per week and for three hours, she works with the Pilots coach, and in her off time, Feldman works individually on her fitness.
She'll be the first to tell you that she puts in a considerable amount of time honing her craft, but that hard work is what's helped to define her on the court. Despite tennis players — at even the highest levels — speaking to at times throwing points, or "battles," away in the interest of energy for the "war," Feldman says it's not her style to give even an inch to her opponent during a match.
"I do try to fight for every point," she said. "I think that comes from not wanting to ever give up. When things are going bad, I just go out there and hit it hard and play my game, and focus on that instead of the score."
Tennis is hard. No one can be perfect all of the time. Feldman — with the help of Gross — has come to learn that often success is dictated by how you manage things when they're not going your way.
"Aaron talks a lot about how every day is different," Feldman said. "Sometimes your lows are really low, and then some days, your highs are really high, but in order to play your best every day, you have to find the thing that's working and use that."
Ask her about her strengths and she'll have a hard time telling you. After all, she works on everything. But ask her about her weaknesses and she has a lot to say.
"I think that everything needs work," Feldman said. "You can't really ever make something perfect. There's always a time when something's good, and then it gets bad again, then it might get better. It is and always been a process."
Feldman isn't the only standout on the Westview tennis team. In fact, the Wildcats are, to many, one of the teams to beat at next month's state tournament.
Seniors Karolina Dobiecka and Riho Lijima, along with Feldman and fellow junior Amberly Au, provide Westview with depth at singles.
In 2019, the Wildcats posted their best finish by placing second to state champion Sunset. But Lefor believes this could be the year that they put themselves in position to battle for the title.
"In any sport I've ever coached, I've never had a team quite like this one," said Lefor, Westview's coach for the last 15 seasons. "I think we're right there in the mix with the best of the teams."
Feldman too is excited about the prospects for this year's team. She said she has no doubt that she and her teammates will be up to the challenge.
"I'm definitely looking forward to state," she said. "I love to compete and I love to compete with my team especially. I know all of our players are just going to fight their hardest and just try to do as well as we can."
Life's not all tennis for Feldman, however, for even at a young age, she understands the value in detaching — if even for a short time — from the game. She said she enjoys chess, but she also likes to listen to music and paint.
Feldman is also a very good student and said that wherever she decides to go to college will be a school that offers her both quality tennis and academic options.
The standout enjoys school and has always been particularly attracted to biology. She said that while she's uncertain as to what she may specifically study at college, something in the biomedical engineering area is of interest. Until then however, Feldman will continue to compete on the court — where she'll continue to learn and love the game.
"There's just so much about the game that I enjoy," Feldman said. "It's hard to say what I enjoy most, but I'm learning every day, and I think that's a pretty cool part of it."
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