It doesn’t happen anymore, but Tennys Sandgren always used to get weird looks when he signed up for tournaments during his teenage years — before he was a staple in the later rounds of junior Grand Slam tournaments.
Was it some sort of a prank? And, if it is, why a ‘Y?’
“There were some kind of like hollow stare and laughs,” said Sandgren, whose first name is pronounced exactly like the name of the sport he plays, “like I was pulling their leg. There’s been many a time where I had to pull out my ID and say, ‘This is my name.’”
On Wednesday, he became the first to reach the quarterfinals at United Tennis Academy. Sandgren sprang a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 upset of Adam Pavlasek, the No. 4 seed from the Czech Republic — the biggest upset of the tournament so far.
Sandgren will be back on the court Friday against Denis Kudla, the No. 140 singles player in the world. Sandgren, who is only ranked 16 spots lower in the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings, is one more win against a fellow American away from making his second appearance in an ATP Challenger Tour semifinal this year.
There’s been many a time where I had to pull out my ID and say, ‘This is my name.’
Tennys Sandgren, Sarasota Open quarterfinalist
There’s more to him than just his unusual name. He has longer hair than just about anyone else at the open and sports a sort-of handlebar-style mustache. And the 6-foot-2 American’s place on the fringe of the top 150 is well deserved with a blend of prototypical size and spry athleticism that helps to extend rallies.
But Sandgren, who won that Tempe Challenger event in Arizona in February for his first Challenger Tour win since 2013 and the second of his career, knows the name is what draws attention from those outside the sport, although he doesn’t like to think that his name has destined him for a career in tennis.
“I always say I hope not,” Sandgren said, “because it would’ve been cooler to be destined to be like an astronaut or something like that.”
The name is pure coincidence, he said. It was his great-grandfather’s name, Swedish in origin, although Sandgren doesn’t know how much farther back it goes or where his great-grandfather’s name actually came from. Even in Sweden, Tennys isn’t exactly a common name.
By now, Sandgren, 25, has heard all the jokes and the ones which bother him most are the laziest ones. When he was a kid, people used to laugh and call him “Tennis Ball,” which he of course did not think was very clever.
156Tennys Sandgren’s singles ranking, according to the Association of Tennis Professionals.
In Gallatin, Tenn., where Sandgren rose to prominence and eventually a top-10 junior ranking by the International Tennis Federation, the name set him apart more, and people began to notice his unique name when he went on to play two years at Tennessee.
But what matters right now, is he is playing the best tennis of his life.
“Tennys from Tennessee who plays tennis,” Sandgren said, who by this point is clearly growing tired of asinine questions about his name. “It’s kind of a gimmick at this point.”
Dennis Kudla def. James McGee 7-5, 6-2.
Vincent Millot def. Max Gonzalez 2-6, 7-5, 6-0.
Tennys Sandgren def. Adam Pavlasek 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
Jared Donaldson vs. Blaz Rola, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
Guido Andreozzi, Argentina, and Marcelo Arevalo, El Salvador, def. Sebastian Korda, USA, and Patrick Kypson, USA, 6-2, 6-2.
Julio Peralta, Chile, and Horacio Zeballos, Argentina (1) def. Bradley Klahn, USA, and Denis Kudla, 6-2, 3-6, 10-8.
Santiago Gonzalez, Mexico, and Michael Venus, New Zealand def. Darian King, Barbados, and Mitchell Kreuger, USA, 6-3, 6-1.
Scott Lipsky, USA, Jurgen Melzer, Austria def. Maximo Gonzalez, Argentina, and Leonardo Mayer, Argentina, 7-5, 7-5.
JAMES T. DRISCOLL STADIUM
Play begins at 11 a.m.
Henri Laaksonen vs. Miomir Kecmanovic
not before 12:30 p.m.
Stefan Kozlov vs. Horacio Zeballos
Andrea Arnaboldi vs. Frances Tiafoe
Julio Peralta/Horacio Zeballos vs. Bradley Klahn/Denis Kudla
not before 7 p.m.
Jurgen Melzer vs. Facundo Arguello
Guido Andreozze/Marcelo Arevalo vs. Santiago Gonazalez/Michael Venus
Elizabeth Moore Sarasota Open
When: Through April 23. Day sessions begin 10 a.m. Night sessions begin 5 p.m.
Where: United Tennis Club, 4511 Bay Club Drive.
Cost: $20 and up (individual tickets), $100 and up (ticket packages).
Parking: $5 per day (through April 21); $10 per day (April 22-23); $30 weekly pass.