US MEN'S CLAY COURT CHAMPIONSHIP 2011
First-Time Winner Spotlight Ryan Sweeting
by ATP Staff|
American wild card Ryan Sweeting prevailed against Japanese No. 6 seed Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-6(3) Sunday at the US Men's Clay Court Championship in Houston to claim his first ATP World Tour title. ATPWorldTour.com caught up with the new champion following his victory.
Coming into this week, you had a career-record of 1-5 on clay in ATP World Tour play. What turned it around this week for you?
I grew up on clay. I’ve always felt comfortable on clay and I think I just enjoy playing here in Houston. I had fun, this is a great tournament, and I’ve been playing well this year so coming into the tournament I was confident. I think winning matches earlier in the tournament helped me.
Did you ever dream of winning an ATP World Tour singles title as a junior, and let alone having it come on clay?
Absolutely. I think that’s every young player’s dream, to win ATP tournaments and get their ranking as high as possible. This is the road that needs to be taken to do that, so it’s definitely a goal of mine that I’ve reached. I grew up on clay in the Bahamas and practiced a lot on clay as a junior. I’ve always liked clay. There aren’t too many tournaments in the States on clay, so I never really had a chance to play on it, but I feel comfortable on it.
Coming into this week you led the tour in qualifying five times this year. How gratifying is it to take advantage of the wild card you received here?
It’s always nice to get a wild card into a tournament. Qualifying into ATP tournaments and the Slams and the Masters is pretty hard to do and you go into your first round already a little fatigued, so to have the opportunity to get directly in definitely helped me.
Talk about the marathon 10th game, 18 minutes, in the second set. You saved three set points.
That game was crucial for me, obviously if I lost that game he would’ve won the set, and we would probably still be playing right now. But I just stayed calm on the set points he had and tried to get my first serve in and stayed aggressive on those important points.
You were broken nine times in the first three matches and only broken once in the last two. After the quarters, Wayne Bryan gave you a few serving tips. Anything that kind of turned it around or tell you that helped you?
I spent a little time with Wayne on the practice courts and he broke down my serve a little bit, gave me a few pointers. I definitely thought about that going into my semi-final and final match. I definitely thought I served the best in the semis and the final.
Any tips he gave you?
Little things. Don’t let the toss drift too far behind me and get the ball out in front. Mostly about my toss.
You have two come-from-behind wins in the second round against Sam Querrey and the quarters against Teymuraz Gabashvili, then straight sets in your last two matches. Did those two come-from-behind wins give you the confidence to think you could win this thing?
I lost the first set against Querrey and Gabashvili, and I spoke to Chuck Adams about it and I sort of told him I was starting off a little slow, lackadaisical, so he tried to get me fired up right when the match started because I can’t afford to be throwing first sets away. That’s not a very good idea. So it worked in the semis and the final. I stayed focused from the beginning and I knew how important the first set was, especially against [Ivo] Karlovic. He was a little tired, so it was very important for me.
What were you the happy with the most this week, putting together your five wins to win your first ATP World Tour title?
I think just handling the moment well. I’m very happy I didn’t let the pressure of winning my first title interfere with my play. I thought I played tennis the normal way I would and didn’t let the stage pressure me.
Now with your first title, what are some of your other goals for the rest of the season?
One of my goals earlier in the season was being in the Top 100, and now I’m in the Top 75. I want to consolidate that, be comfortably and consistenly moving up into the Top 50 and just keep going.
With being in the Top 75 in this coming week, is there an added goal at the end of the year now that you’re at where are now?
I’m getting a lot of confidence, a lot of experience playing good players. I think my biggest goal is to do well in Grand Slams. I want to go far and those are the biggest stages. A tennis player’s dream is to do well in Grand Slams and I think I’m feeling comfortable enough now on bigger stages and against better players to do.
Lastly, whose been the biggest influence in your career to get where you are today?
I’d guess I have to say my mom. She supported me from day one and she’s always believed in me and always given me the means to play tennis and travel the world. Without her it’d be impossible. She’s always been my No. 1 fan.