All eyes were on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the men’s draw of the 2018 Australian Open. But former Tennessee tennis star Tennys Sandgren flew fearlessly under the radar in his first appearance at the Australian Open held annually in Melbourne, Australia. Sandgren competed for the Tennessee men’s tennis team from 2010-2011.
The un-seeded American made a historic run in this year’s Australian Open, defeating two ATP top 10 ranked opponents along the way. By the time the Gallatin, Tennessee native lost, he was the last American standing in the tournament. He is the first former Tennessee player to reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open since 2000, when current Tennessee men’s tennis head coach Chris Woodruff’s run ended in a loss to tennis great Pete Sampras.
In the first round, Sandgren defeated Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 7(7)-6(2), 6-2 in straight sets. The former Vol moved on to the second round where he defeated 2014 Australian Open winner and No. 9 ranked Swiss, Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 in straight sets.
“It’s something going into a tournament like this, you don’t know if you’ll get an opportunity or a look or even be able to take advantage of it,” Sandgren said after his second-round win. “So, to come out of it with a victory, it’s a huge deal for me.”
Many pundits attributed Wawrinka’s loss to rust from his recovery due to an off-season knee surgery, but it was Sandgren who would move on to the third round where he would face 22-year-old German, Maximilian Marterer. The former Vol defeated Marterer 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 7(7)-6(5) in four sets.
Sandgren finally turned heads and received international media attention when he defeated No. 5 ranked Dominic Thiem 6-2, 4-6, 7(7)-6(4), 6(7)-7(9), 6-3 in a thrilling five-set round of 16 match. Thiem, who is widely considered to be an up-and-coming tennis star, was a heavy favorite coming into the Australian Open.
“It’s taken a lot of time going into it, but to get all your wins in one sitting is strange,” Sandgren said after defeating Thiem which allowed him to move on to the second week of the tournament.
Sandgren’s debut Australian Open run ended in the quarterfinals where he would lose to Hyeon Chung. Although the former Vol kept the match close and even saved four match points, Chung would defeat Sandgren 6-4, 7(7)-6(5), 6-3 in straight sets.
Chung – the highest ranked South Korean tennis player in the world – made headlines defeating No. 4 ranked Alexander Zverev and six-time Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic in the previous rounds.
Tennys Sandgren who is currently ranked No. 97 in the world will look to build on an impressive Australian Open campaign, as he continues with the remainder of the 2018 ATP calendar season.
Edited by Ben McKee
Feature image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics