It’s a bright and beautiful day at the first day of qualifying at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic held in Washington, DC. While the main draw begins Sunday evening and will feature top players such as world #7 Gael Monfils and #9 Mardy Fish, it was the four UVA players that brought the crowd support to the courts today.
While valiantly fighting back in the second set, incoming UVA freshman Mitchell Frank went down 6-3 in the third to 23-year-old Australian Matthew Ebden. Even in the loss, Frank’s cheering section was loud and encouraging, making the stands appear more like a mid-week capacity crowd than early qualifying rounds.
In other action, Amer Delic went through in easy straight sets beating Henry Steer 6-1, 6-1, and came back out in the afternoon to practice. Delic was the only player of the day to actually pick up after himself instead of leaving behind water bottles and tennis cartons everywhere on court. Props for good manners, Amer. On his way off court, our fellow colleague Rachel from OnTheGoTennis joked about nearly sideswiping him with her camera lens. But Delic took it in stride and even tweeted this below:
Indeed, he does have a good smiling mug-shot – and a good sense of humor.
Even in the 90+ degree humidity and heat, other notable players took to the practice courts. Tommy Haas was practicing earlier in the day shirtless and looking fitter than ever. The former world #2 underwent right hip surgery in March of 2010, and his climb back up the rankings has been anything but steady. In four of the five events he has played since May of this year, he’s gotten past the first round only once. And the video below may give you insight as to why. While practicing with Radek Stepanek, Haas had to stop play mid-point because he tweaked his right hip and needed to stretch it out. He grimaced through the next ten minutes of rallies, but had to eventually stop practice due to pain.
Serbians Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki battled on the practice courts for two hours, one sans shirt. Based on the photo below, Tipsarevic is primed to be the new “Hulk” – just check out those muscles!
Croat Ivo Karlovic also practiced with his coach in the afternoon, and brought a new accessory with him: a white, sunscreen-covered face. He looks a bit like “Ghost-Face Killah,” ready to battle. His coach, Mirko Pehar (1.5 years his junior), had him working on serving and volleying – a lot! He’ll take on American Michael Russell either Monday or Tuesday evening in the first round.
As I had interest to interview Wayne Odesnik to see how he has been handling the pressure of coming back on tour after an unfortunate incident last year, I watched him take on Canadian-born American Jesse Levine. He dismantled the 5’9’’ Levine in straight sets, but not without drama, of course. At 5-4 in the second set with Odesnik approaching the baseline to serve, a crowd of youngsters chanted “Who’s world? Wayne’s World!” Afterwhich, a noticeably older gentleman seated directly behind Odesnik inappropriately yelled out “HGH!” Without words or glances to the man in the stands, Odesnik stepped back from the baseline, and waited a few seconds while starring at the ground. He stepped back up to the line and served four straight service winners, winning the match in fashion. Even with all the scandal surrounded this young American, you have to commend him for keeping his cool in a pressure situation. Other players in his position may have responded back in disgust, but either way, I’m sure it can’t be easy to be in his position.
Other players on court included:
Fernando Gonzalez, who just celebrated his 31st birthday and was a 2003 Legg Mason Tennis Classic finalist
James Blake (with brother Thomas), who was visibly frustrated with himself as he practiced with Nikolay Davydenko
and Lithuanian newcomer Richard Berankis, who is currently ranked #118 in the world.
Catch me all week as I cover the Legg Mason Tennis Classic on twitter at @TennisRomi!
All photos credited to the author.