Challenger Q&A: Smyczek Takes Title In Charlottesville
Tim Smyczek took the ninth edition of the Charlottesville Men's Pro Challenger on Sunday, downing countryman and top seed Tennys Sandgren 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 in exactly two hours. The American had his back against the wall, trailing by a set and a break, but would storm back to hoist the trophy. It was a significant victory for the 29-year-old, who claimed his first ATP Challenger Tour title in more than two years (Tiburon 2015). He rises 31 spots to No. 158 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
The Wisconsin native is the ninth different American to prevail on the circuit this year. He joins Sandgren, Frances Tiafoe, Ryan Harrison, Noah Rubin, Michael Mmoh, Kevin King, Mackenzie McDonald and Stefan Kozlov in the winners' circle.
It was an extra special week for Smyczek, who also claimed his first doubles match win in three years, since the Napa Challenger in 2014. He reached the second round with countryman Marcos Giron.
It's been two years since your last trophy. Is that the bigger accomplishment, or winning a doubles match for the first time in three years?
If we're going on sheer number of days between wins, the doubles is pretty impressive. But I was really happy with the week. I knew coming in that I was playing well, but that doesn't always guarantee you to win a tournament. I was happy with the way I competed and I was on the ropes a few times. I was down a set and a break today and I just knew that the margins were really small, so if I kept fighting I'd get a look. And I got on a roll there.
When Sandgren lost his focus in the second set, how important was it for you to put your foot down?
I made a little adjustment in the second and it may have looked like he lost focus, but I was doing some things to make him uncomfortable. I had a change in tactics and luckily he had a little valley in his game and gave me a few free points. I've seen him come back from big deficits before, so even when I got the second break in the third, it wasn't quite over yet.
You have gone through a lot in the past couple years. What has changed for you?
I was always planning on playing next year and I've done a lot better of thinking my way through matches. It gives you a lot of confidence to feel that you have an objective every time you step out on the court. Especially on the practice court, knowing you have a job to do. I'm really thankful to be here and hopefully I'll keep it rolling.
How hard is it to be out there without a traveling coach?
Some guys are better at it than others. I really thought I could handle it. I'm really self-motivated and good and getting the work done when nobody is looking. I thought it was going to be ok, but really it's a matter of the constant feedback. I'm not my best critic and sometimes I walk off the court scratching my head after a match. It's helpful to have somebody day in and day out to provide feedback and figure out how I can become a better tennis player.
Some people, when they think of indoor tennis, they think of huge servers. That is, players who can blitz through a tournament quickly. But four of your six Challenger titles are indoors. What does it say about your strength on these fast surfaces?
I'm from Wisconsin and grew up playing at least six months a year indoors. It's something I'm comfortable with. And the other thing is that the indoor courts aren't always very fast. In Knoxville next week, the courts are historically really slow. This week, the courts are fast and while I served well, I also returned quite well. I thought I did a pretty good job of picking my spots and getting these guys to not serve their best. There's no doubt that you have to make adjustments on a quicker court and I feel like I'm moving really well right now and taking my angles. I'm not going to beat guys with pace. I have to either take time away or give time. That goes back to working with [coach Dustin Taylor]. It's really useful on a court like this.
It's a tough turnaround with a Tuesday start in Knoxville. You have Stefan Kozlov in the first round and you just had a pretty epic match a few days ago. How do you get refocused? You're also in the lead for the USTA's Australian Open wild card.
I'll take the rest of the day to pause and reflect a little bit. It's going to be a long two weeks and I'll try to win several more matches. I won't think about the wild card too much, but I have more work to do. I'll have a light hit tomorrow night and another hit on Tuesday and get back to work.