Tennis Prose



Sandgren Charms At Sarasota Open

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoor

By Scoop Malinowski

Tennys Sandgren won – or survived – his first round encounter with Ryan Shane 36 76 76 last night at the Sarasota Open but the most poignant moment of the evening happened not in the heat of competition.

Sandgren barely edged out the second set against the extremely powerful, hard hitting Virginia professional and then just before the start of the third set, as Sandgren walked out to the baseline to resume the duel, he noticed one of the red-hatted ballboys, about ten years old was leaving the match with his mom. The same boy who had just asked him for his autograph miments earlier but was declined. “Not now, after the match.”

But Sandgren had a change of heart when he noticed the boy leaving. Sandgren was moved to ask the boy, “Where are you going, buddy? Are you leaving?”

Yes, the kid had to leave, as it was after eight o’clock. His mom was taking him home. Sandgren must have been impressed by the kid like we were. Sitting in the bleacher we sat behind the chair umpire chair – myself and Ray Collins, the tournament announcer – and we both praised the full speed efforts of the kid’s ballboy work, running as fast as he could for every ball, showing the strain of maximum hustle on his facial expressions to retrieve each errant ball for the players. This boy was working as hard as the players were.

Sandgren must have noticed it too like we did and offered to sign the kid’s hat before he departed. The surprised boy came over the the side fence and got his hat signed by the no. 81 player in the ATP and the reigning champion at the Syndey Apia International tournament. A spontaneous, magical moment created by Tennys Sandgren at the Sarasota Open. A moment that the always alert and observant Ray Collins even captured on his cell phone.

The story doesn’t quite end there.

Early in the match, Collins revealed how he did not have especially fond memories of Sandgren from his appearance at the Sarasota Open two years ago, when he miraculously reached the finals after enduring several hard fought battles through the draw, including a 76 in the third defeat or Reilly Opelka, which featured Sandgren fighting back from two breaks down.

Sandgren was not happy with the conditions of the tournaments dry courts at the old United Club venue and vented several verbal complaints, understandably so because the courts were in bad shape. They were so dry that they had to be watered by hand held hose.

Collins, a traditionalist whose full time career is as a news anchor at the ABC affiliate in Sarasota, did not approve of the Sandgren complaining which I tried to defend by explaining that Sandgren was in an insecure spot in his career two years ago, he was ranked outside 100, he still had not won even a single ATP main tour match at that point, he was still a desperately struggling journeyman, maybe even on the verge of giving it all up. But things came together for him that week, reaching that final in Sarasota, which he lost to Tiafoe, and it sparked a career surge. Sandgren’s continued good results earned the USTA wildcard into Roland Garros, his first Grand Slam main draw. Later in the summer of 2016, Sandgren finally won his first ATP match (after six years) in Washington DC, defeating Go Soeda in three sets just before midnight.

Sandgren played that US Open and this his career defining moment came at the Australian Open were he reached the quarterfinal, the highlight being an amazing upset of top ten star Dominic Thiem in five sets.

As Collins revealed early during Sandgren vs Shane that he was not a fan of Tennys, even using the word “hater” but only the delicate version. However Collins confessed the one, unscripted act of kindness by Sandgren with the ballboy “won me over.”

After Sandgren’s win, Collins approached Sandgren on the stadium court and showed him the photo with the ballboy. Sandgren liked it and asked Ray to send it, they exchanged contact information. Collins sent the photo and ended up texting back and forth with Sandgren for almost an hour last night. A new friendship formed. Out of nowhere, like an ace when down match point.

One random act of kindness last night in Sarasota changed an opinion, a perception and created a new friendship in a matter of seconds.

The power of tennis and kindness proved last night hate can transform to love.









· · ·


  • Dan Markowitz · April 17, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    Good move by Tennys. I think in a lot of people’s minds, Sandgren has been sullied by the whole Aussie Open episode last year. But I’ve learned with people like Scoop who I do share a good friendship with that just because you might have diametrically opposed political opinions and choices, it doesn’t mean that person who you disagree with politically is not a good person. This may be the case with Sandgren.

    I’ve been impressed that Sandgren as with very few long-time Challenger-level players like a Paul Goldstein or a Robert Kendricks or a Dimitry Tursunov, broke out of the Challenger circuit and has become a regular on the ATP circuit. Will this last? It looks like it might not with his results lately, but Sandgren is a talented and fun player to watch as he plays with a lot of energy and aggressive shot-making.

    It’s always good when a player acknowledges a ball kid or a linesperson during or after a match because players rarely do so and they’re in the position of power while the ball kid and linesperson are not.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 17, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Big breakout week for Taylor Fritz on the red clay in Monte Carlo. He takes out back to back matches Tsonga and Sceartzmann. Next scalp is Djokovic’s?

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 17, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    Sandgren said two major tennis writers from major outlets in USA sat down and interviewed him for 30 and 45 minutes and learned he is an intelligent, conservative, level headed guy who expresses his opinions and beliefs very very well. They did nothing with the stories he gave them, they killed the stories. You can conclude that they tried to do pre-planned articles to portray him as a right wing nut job but he didn’t comply and so they killed the stories and never wrote anything. Fake news mission not accomplished?

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 17, 2019 at 8:08 pm

    Sandgren is a very very good person, Pat Harrison was telling me and Ray Collins today, he knows him since juniors. He said on the court Tennys and his won Ryan are super ultra competitive and can get overly intense but off the court they are very similar and good people. Some fans can’t understand that.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 18, 2019 at 6:22 am

    No, I don’t think anyone has a problem with Harrison’s or Sandgren’s competitive fires. The problem is that both of them aren’t very good. If they had a combativeness like Connors and won in big events, they would be hailed. But they’re both sub-500 players who in the last four slams have combined to win 3 matches!

    That’s 3 matches in 4 slams combined. Harrison and Sandgren are lucky any reporter or news outlet is paying attention to them. Both are huge disappointments and outside the top 100 at 26-years-old and 27, respectively.

  • Valerie Barcelos · April 24, 2019 at 9:25 am

    I loved this article. After working with the ball boys all last week, I know what this meant to this young dedicated boy. Just being out on the courts with these players means the world to them. Thank you for capturing this wonderful moment for both of them! I’m sure it will be a life long memory for the ball boy. It’s too bad it was not in the local papers for all to enjoy.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 25, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Thank you Valerie for these kind words. Sarasota Open was a special week for so many people.



Find it!

Copyright 2010
To top