© Jacob Stuckey / Savannah Challenger

Tennys Sandgren clinches a place at Roland Garros with his title run in Savannah.

Challenger Surge Secures Sandgren Roland Garros Spot

The 25 year old won the Savannah Challenger on Sunday

Tennys Sandgren is “super pumped” that he will feature in the main draw of Grand Slam for the first time after the American commanded the USTA French Open Wild Card challenge. The American who earns the most Emirates ATP Rankings points over a four-week clay-court stretch is awarded a wild card into the main draw of Roland Garros. A runner-up finish at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Sarasota and title on Sunday in Savannah saw Sandgren emerge atop the standings.

“It’s really exciting, my first main draw of a Grand Slam,” stated Sandgren. “I’m super excited for the opportunity. Roland Garros is one of my favourite tournaments. I’ve only been once to play qualies, so to be in the main draw is fantastic.”

The 25 year old has attempted to qualify in a Grand Slam tournament 12 times, which has produced a 3-12 match record. “It’s been a lot of attempts, a lot of matches, a lot of Future events and ATP Challenger Tour matches to gain some confidence, to get my ranking up,” added the World No. 114. “To have a really good four weeks, to get this wild card means a lot."

The American will be a keen spectator of the Roland Garros draw later this month, but hopes a nine-time champion doesn’t fall next to his name. “It might be fun to play somebody big named. I’d love to avoid Rafa (Rafael Nadal), I don’t think I can win that match, as do a lot of tennis players,” quipped Sandgren. “It would be nice to have a ‘winnable’ match, somebody I can compete with and I feel like that is a lot of the guys. I’m going to compete as hard as I can on the court.”

Sandgren has been absorbed by watching past greats on TV at Roland Garros. “Rafa wins a lot! Some of the Guga (Gustavo Kuerten) matches were pretty special,” reflected Sandgren, referring to the Brazilian’s trio of titles in Paris. “He was one of my idols growing up and obviously he loved the dirt.

“The Gaudio-Coria 2004 final was a good one (Gaudio prevailed from two sets down). There were two when Rafa won the title without dropping a set, when he steam-rolled Federer in the final (2008) and then 2010, that’s just insane.”

Sandgren started his wild card journey to Paris by qualifying for his maiden ATP World Tour main draw in Houston (l. Escobedo in 1R) at the Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship, followed by a run to the final (l. Tiafoe) at the $100,000 Challenger event in Sarasota.

“Playing Houston was awesome, it helped build up my confidence,” explained Sandgren. “It was good to start the clay court season with a couple of wins to get comfortable. I feel like I’ve improved a lot on the clay, it’s never been my favourite surface, but I feel like my fitness level is pretty high. I can stay out there for a while and grind out results.”

Sandgren’s progression was halted in early 2014 when a persistent left hip problem prompted surgery, before a five-month absence from competitive action. “It was sad, I was playing well,” said Sandgren, who had fallen to No. 714 in the Emirates ATP Rankings by February 2015. “It was a case of going back to the drawing board. I lost the first 15 matches I played after coming back from hip surgery, I lost 13 of them in three sets, so I just couldn’t catch a break.

“I kept at it, kept grinding. I finally got back into the Top 200 at the end of last year and I have learnt a few lessons about looking after my body better and not training quite as hard. My main focus has been to protect my body, to make sure that I’m healthy when I’m on court."

The three-time Challenger champion is ambitious for the remainder of 2017. “Tentatively I’m shooting for the Top 100, but I don’t really like performance-based goals,” said the American. It’s more important for me how I’m competing, trying to stay calm, to then get the best out of myself and my game.

“I’ll keep working every day, looking at little things to improve in my game to help me get better. I think the ranking will come, whatever that will be, I’ll get the most out of my tennis.”

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