By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg
In the first ATP tournament since February, former Tennessee All-American Tennys Sandgren picked up where he left off after his surprising run to the Australian Open quarterfinals back in January.
That five-set marathon saw Sandgren fail to convert seven match points in a loss to Roger Federer. A win would’ve sent the Gallatin native to his first Grand Slam semifinal. Sandgren followed up that strong tournament run with a first round loss to Steve Johnson at the New York Open two weeks later.
With no events being held in the six months since, it appears Sandgren used the break to hit the reset button in preparation for next week’s U.S. Open. At the Western & Southern Masters event Sandgren strung together a pair of wins—including a second round upset of the 20th ranked player in the world—before falling in the round of 16 to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who appears to be the clear frontrunner to win the U.S. Open with Federer and Rafael Nadal out of the field.
It might not look like much, but for the world’s No. 55-ranked player coming off the most heartbreaking loss of his career, a strong showing in advance of the first Grand Slam since the coronavirus pandemic could lead to another surprising run for the former Vol. Sandgren had his best showing at the U.S. Open last year when he advanced to the third round.
Other ATP notes
- Former World No. 1 Andy Murray made his first ATP appearance of the year and was bounced in the third round by Milos Raonic. The performance was still a positive one as Murray scored an upset over world No. 7 Alex Zverev earlier in the week. Murray’s planning on playing in the U.S. Open—his first major appearance since the 2019 Australian Open. He’s missed eight of the last ten Grand Slams due to a nagging hip injury.
- Kei Nishikori, who was the U.S. Open runner-up in 2014 and has made the semifinals twice more since tested positive again for COVID-19 earlier in the week and is likely to miss the tournament this season. Nishikori originally tested positive earlier this month and has said his symptoms are minimal and he is quarantining in Florida.
- After getting off to a slow start to the week, Djokovic’s straight sets win over Sandgren appeared to show the top ranked player in tennis is ready to go for the U.S. Open. With his two biggest rivals out of the event, Djokovic is far and away the heavy favorite to win his 18th Grand Slam.