Querrey Wins Home Court Advantage Exhibition

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The Home Court Advantage exhibition, billed as the “California French Open” because of its green clay-court surface, was won by 45th-ranked Sam Querrey. He defeated 488th-ranked lucky loser Brandon Holt in an all-U.S. final, prevailing 10-8 in a third-set super tiebreak Sunday afternoon.

The quaint, two-day exhibition, which was shown by Tennis Channel via its Facebook page, was held on the private estate of Scott Douglas in Rolling Hills, Calif., a gated community on the Palos Verdes Peninsula south of Los Angeles. Total prize money at stake was $10,000.

”The third-set tiebreaker was fun,” said Querrey of his 3-4 (5), 4-1, 10-8 victory during a post-match interview with Tennis.com. “It was when we had our best points. We had probably five or six really entertaining points and I got a little lucky in the end, it was just one point that went my way.”

Like last weekend’s UTR Pro Match Series in West Palm Beach, Fla., there were no spectators aside from family, players called their own lines and shagged their own balls in lieu of ball kids, and social distancing was maintained on the side of the court where the chair umpire and player benches were positioned. At the conclusion of each match, players tapped racquets instead of shaking hands.

Querrey advanced to Sunday afternoon’s final with a 4-3 (6), 4-1 win over No. 181 Ernesto Escobedo earlier in the day, saving a set point down 6-5 in the first set tiebreak.

On Saturday, Querrey overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat 17-year-old Zachary Svajda, ranked No. 945, 4-2, 4-1. Then, he lost to No. 126 Bradley Klahn, 4-3 (5), 0-4, 10-8. The match was decided by third-set super tiebreak, but Querrey still advanced to Sunday’s play.

Meanwhile, No. 102 Marcos Giron advanced to face Klahn in the other Sunday semifinal after he split his two Saturday matches, losing to Escobedo, 4-3 (6), 4-2, then beating Holt, 4-2, 4-2. However, Klahn withdrew during the warm up for the semifinal match citing a nagging back injury.

Thus, with Klahn unable to play, it meant that “lucky loser” Holt was pressed into emergency duty and he beat Giron 4-3 (4), 4-3 (8). Holt, a University of Southern California senior and son of tennis Hall of Famer Tracy Austin, resides near where the tournament was being held. It became quite a weekend for him as he attended a virtual graduation ceremony on Friday.

The six-player field comprised entirely of Americans, was divided into two groups of three for Saturday’s round-robin format. They were ranked within each group by wins, then number of sets and games.

After the first day, Querrey was quoted by Los Angeles Times sports columnist Helene Elliott as saying, “Everyone’s a little rusty. I felt like my time was clean. My shoulder was a little sore from hitting serves. I haven’t hit serves in a while, but all in all I felt pretty good.”

The Way Back Machine – 2019 Italian Open men’s final

It was a Roman conquest as Rafael Nadal won the 54th renewal of his storied rivalry against Novak Djokovic in Rome, 6-0, 4-6, 6-1.

Behind The Racquet – Belinda Bencic

“Tennis is super difficult because you never stay where you are, you are either going up or down,” Belinda Bencic reflected, in a first-person essay she wrote this spring for the Instagram series Behind The Racquet. The 23-year-old Swiss star won junior singles titles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2013 and was named ITF Junior World Champion for 2013. At Eastbourne in 2015, she became the second-youngest player to win a WTA Premier-level final (18 years, 109 days). She broke into the Top 10 a year later. Then, she underwent left wrist surgery in spring 2017, missed five months, and saw her ranking fall outside the Top 300.

“As a junior you just play, everything is exciting and new. You have nothing to lose, you don’t overthink anything. While I moved to the top of the sport I just felt too young for all of it. The media attention is something you cannot prepare for, especially if you aren’t naturally open like I am. I never had to deal with something not going my way in my career, and now any failure was directly in the spotlight. I didn’t enjoy simply playing tennis anymore. I was never one that wanted to be in the spotlight off the court. It was a relief after I got my surgery that I could start new again. I started again, not playing in front of anyone, no one judging me and I found to love it all again.”

Bencic enjoyed an outstanding season in 2019, in which she won two titles (at Dubai and Moscow) and won a career-best 49 main draw match wins. At the time of the shutdown of the WTA Tour due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the eighth-ranked Bencic had gone 8-7 during 2020, reached the quarterfinal round in three tournaments (Adelaide, St. Petersburg and Doha).

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“It was a huge struggle to deal with the pressure of becoming top 10 in the world early on. I truly believe that once I made it there my body was forcing me to take some time off, that something wasn’t right, and that’s why I got injured. I think it all happened for a reason. I learned so much about myself and this sport while working my way back. I appreciate tennis more. I fully believe that if I didn’t get injured I would be completely exhausted in a few years. It would have only been a matter of time until I felt burnt out so I am happy it happened now. I was lucky to gain this experience while I was still extremely young and ready to fight back. I broke into the top 10 for the first time at St. Petersburg in 2016. Then soon came Miami where I got my first injury, which led to many others. A severe wrist problem came and I tried to avoid surgery while playing for nine months. April 2017, I finally decided to get it done. I was out for about six months and my ranking dropped to 350. Tennis is super difficult because you never stay where you are, you are either going up or down. As a junior, you just play, everything is exciting and new. You have nothing to lose, you don’t overthink anything. While I moved to the top of the sport I just felt too young for all of it. The media attention is something you cannot prepare for, especially if you aren’t naturally open like I am. I never had to deal with something not going my way in my career, and now any failure was directly in the spotlight. I didn’t enjoy simply playing tennis anymore. I was never one that wanted to be in the spotlight off the court. It was a relief after I got my surgery that I could start new again. I started again, not playing in front of anyone, no one judging me and I found to love it all again. I could have taken wild cards or a protected ranking but I wanted to build my confidence and love again. I began to remember what it was like to appreciate every win and every minute on court. To take a second and remember you worked so hard to get to compete against players I used to watch on TV when I was younger.” @belindabencic Go to behindtheracquet.com for extended stories, podcasts and merch.

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What they’re writing

Liz Clarke, sports features writer for The Washington Post, from “Unique and très magnifique “: “It is the nature of sports – and of champion athletes – to get inexorably faster, stronger and more explosive over time.

“The French Open, however, demands something different. 

“Foot speed helps only so much on the tournament’s famed red clay, which rewards the art of sliding more. It’s much the same with power. Players can blast their serve all they like, but the clay will blunt its force, rewarding instead shots delivered with wicked spin.

“To triumph at the French Open requires a vast array of skills and reare temperament: agile footwork, innate timing; deft drop shots, slices and looping groundstrokes; clever strategy; and heaps of patience and resolve.”

What they’re podcasting

On the latest episode of The Tennis Podcast, hosts David Law, Catherine Whitaker and Matt Roberts answer listener questions on a variety of topics, including: What can been done to make tennis behind closed doors more enjoyable?; Ines Ibbou’s rebuttal to Dominic Thiem’s comments about lower-ranked players; results from the past they would like to change; best and worst coaching appointments; and whether doubles should have more prominence.

What they’re sharing on social media

Craig Tiley, Tennis Australia CEO / A shout out to the #volunteers

WTA / Revisiting the 2019 Italian Open final

Chrissie Evert / From 1973-79, she was almost unbeatable on clay