Sandgren Wins Competitive Miami Backyard Battle

WASHINGTON, July 2, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Professional tennis returned to Miami this week in the form of the Altec/Styslinger Tennis Exhibition, an eight-man backyard tournament that featured five of the Top 65-ranked men’s players in the world. It represented one of the most competitive fields among the various pop-up exhibitions that have taken place in the United States since pro tennis was shut down by the global coronavirus pandemic in early March.

The three-day Altec/Styslinger Tennis Exhibition, using a Fast-Four format, was won by Tennys Sandgren. The 55th-ranked American knocked off No. 45 Sam Querrey of the United States, 4-1, 4-1, in just 30 minutes. Sandgren, who moved well and served effectively, took advantage of three service breaks – two of them in the second set – including in the deciding game of the match to win. The 2020 Australian Open quarterfinalist advanced to the final against Querrey with a three-set win over No. 220 Brandon Nakashima on Tuesday while Querrey reached the final with an impressive win over No. 39 Reilly Opelka.

“I was going after my shots and my backhand was there,” said Sandgren during a post-match interview. “My forehand decided to be good, too. I played well.

“This is the most tennis I’ve played – three days in a row  – as far as match play. I thought I got better every day.”

In an all-U.S. third-place match, Nakashima defeated Opelka, 4-3 (2), 4-3 (3).

The palm tree-lined hard court event took place at a private residence which the Miami Herald identified as reportedly belonging to Dennis DeGori, founder of the Miami nightclub E11EVEN. The field of eight also included: former University of Virginia star and event organizer JC Aragone, No. 63 Steve Johnson, 2016 NCAA champion Mackie McDonald and No. 29 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. Aragone beat Johnson, 4-2, 4-1, for seventh place, and Hurkacz defeated McDonald, 3-4 (9), 4-2, 4-2, to capture fifth place.

In a recent Tennis Channel interview, Aragone suggested that being at home, he had a lot of time to think about what he wanted to do which was to play tennis. “I’ve always wanted to do something like this,” he said. “I have a lot of buddies that have full courts here in Miami, and I started with a Microsoft doc with simple questions like, ‘Who will play my event? How will I pay these players? Where is it going to be?’ You start knocking one after the other and all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘Hey, I’ve got a pretty good group of guys. I’ve got sponsor money. It took a lot of time.”

The Miami event took place under strict health and safety protocols, which included: no spectators, no linesmen or ball kids, just a chair umpire and the players, who chased after their own balls and took care of handling their sweaty towels. There was plenty of hand sanitizer, too. After it was all over, Sandgren celebrated at mid court by devouring a slice of cake.

Wimbledon / One year ago …

Imagine, it’s the best day of your life. You’re Coco Gauff, just 15, and playing on Court 1 in the Wimbledon Championships. That was how the American teen sensation spent her July 1, 2019. Oh, and she beat her idol, Venus Williams, in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, too.

The Way Back Machine – Wimbledon 2003 mixed doubles

Moments we’re missing

Voices we’re missing

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Missing Wimbledon 🍓 #work #friends #eurosport #invitationaldoubles #grass #grandslam @wimbledon

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Konta’s Kitchen

Wimbledon Recreated: Creating poster art

Happy Canada Day

What they’re saying

• Sue Barker, BBC presenter and 1976 French Open champion on Coco Gauff: “She has the ability to be the greatest player ever, even better than Serena (Williams) and I never thought I’d say that.

“Serena is without question the best so far. Coco has all the attributes, physically, mentally, she has the game, she’s going to be superstar, with the press she is so engaging, she has just got absolutely everything. 

“If she can start winning Grand Slams by 18 then who knows how many she could win. We’re seeing Serena desperately trying to equal Margaret Court’s record [of 24 Grand Slam singles titles] – Coco could outdo that and I never thought that would happen.”

• In an interview with German sports weekly Sport Bild, Dominic Thiem in looking back at the Adria Tour said: “All the positive cases shouldn’t have happened. We were excited about the fans after many weeks without them & thought the restrictions by the government were right. It was a mistake.”

Speaking of Thiem, on Wednesday he announced that due to other commitments, he will not be competing in the final two weekends of the Ultimate Tennis Showdown near Nice, France. “I really enjoyed my time in Nice. I’m sad that I cannot come to the finals, but I really hope I can be back at UTS in the future.”

What they’re writing

Steve Flink, Tennis.com writer and historian, from “The Queen and I: Virginia Wade’s 1977 Wimbledon Win Was Meant To Be”:

In many ways, Wimbledon was synonymous with Virginia Wade for a very long time. The evocative Englishwoman played at the All England Club for 24 consecutive years, from 1962-85. All through her playing days, loyal crowds followed her every move, emoted with a fervor they exhibited unabashedly, and gave her their undivided attention. To the fans of Great Britain, Wade was a performer with a singular hold on their outlooks and imaginations.

Wade told me in a recent interview about the powerful connection she had with the crowds all through her career—and especially during her enormously popular 1977 triumph on the lawns of London.

“Playing there is an unbelievable feeling. If you are feeling good about yourself, it is like riding a wave, but if you are not feeling great it is like being dumped in the sand and not being able to breathe,” she says. “You have to try to enjoy it even if it does also come with its toll. But 1977 was amazing with the extra motivation of it being the queen’s Silver Jubilee and the Centenary of the club. I was amused the other day by a BBC poll of the most memorable female athletes. Believe it or not even all these years later, I came in fourth.”

What they’re podcasting

Forty years ago – summer of 1980 – Björn Borg and John McEnroe played what is arguably the most famous and memorable tie-break in tennis history. The scene was Centre Court at Wimbledon. McEnroe had reached the men’s singles final at Wimbledon for the first time and Borg was aiming for an Open Era record fifth consecutive Wimbledon title.

The fourth set tie-break lasted 20 minutes. McEnroe saved five match points (seven all together in the fourth set) and won the tie-break 18-16.

Borg would go on to win the match, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16), 8-6.

“I was sitting there thinking that I’ve had seven match points and now I’m sitting here and I have to play one set more – I can’t believe it. So that was the worst minute of my tennis life,” Borg told The Tennis Podcast during a recent interview. “One hour later was the best.”

What they’re sharing on social media

Stories From Tomorrow / Garbiñe Muguruza on literacy 

WTA / Viktoria Kuzmova in Bratislava 

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#HomeCourt vibes 🦋• @vikikuzmova Homecourt 💙🇸🇰

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Rafael Nadal / Practice