First Round’s Rolling at the Charlottesville Challenger
Steve Fogleman, Tennis Atlantic
It was like they were getting the band back together after Tennys Sandgren’s first round win at the Charlottesville Men’s Pro Tennis Challenger. Sandgren and Rhyne Williams, former roommates at the University of Tennessee, did everything except break into a rendition of “Old Rocky Top”.
They might as well sing “God Bless America” all week long, because this is a tournament loaded with ‘Mericans.
Sandgren, Reilly Opelka and Jared Donaldson, who all won yesterday, join 16 other Americans in the 32 player draw. It’s the most American, and possibly most talented field in the history of the event.
Sandgren reflected on a good season after the win over Brydan Klein. “Quarters and a semi this fall and I had chances in all those matches. I feel like I’m playing well and I feel like I’m giving myself a chance to go deep every match”, he told me.
Reilly Opelka showed big-league composure as he battled bad calls and native son Sekou Bangoura in a three set comeback win. A bad line call at 30-all and 5-5 in the second set could’ve cost him the match, but he stayed composed and survived to advance, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.
Later, Jared Donaldson faced an onslaught from Switzerland’s Alexander Ritschard but prevailed, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
The qualifiers are placed. Gonzales Austin was another comeback winner yesterday. The former Vanderbilt Tennis standout told me that “sometimes when I get down, I lose a little bit of belief. Today, I came out in the 5-2 game (2nd set) and I was still fighting and I think that sends a message to my opponent that I’m not going to go away and it puts a little more pressure on him.”
Austin closed out Aron Hiltzik, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2), and advances to face Mackenzie McDonald.