Legg Mason Tennis Classic Joins Top 20
August 3, 2009 -- Local residents might think that The Legg Mason Tennis Classic is just a regional event... like it's not such a big deal. But, they're wrong.
This year the Legg Mason Tennis Classic has risen to lofty heights. It is now one of the top 20 international tournaments of the year, after being classified as an ATP World Tour 500 level event. With its new home amongst the elite, the 41st running of this tournament may just turn out to be a real big deal.
The new classification means more than double the prize money ($600,000 to $1.4 million), which means more demand from players because the ranking points have tripled (from 175-500), which means more ticket sales. At least that's the goal. With this year's stellar field -- including first-time appearances by Tommy Robredo and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga -- and Roland Garros finalist Robin Soderling, residents have all the reason in the world to take a trip to the Rock Creek Park stadium this week.
The main attraction in the singles draw has to be the #1 seed Andy Roddick. After his marathon final at Wimbledon against the eventual champion Roger Federer, Andy's name has been the topic of many a sport's fan. Even though he 'felt heartbroken' afterward, he realized that not many people could play at the level he reached at The All England Club.
This year makes Andy's eighth appearance at the D. C. event. He won the title in 2001, 2005, and 2007. Since it is his first match since Wimbledon, Andy said that he looks forward to a solid start.
Sam Querrey has arrived in D. C. just off his title run at the LA Tennis Open, the second stop on the Olympus U. S. Open Series. He has successfully reached the finals of his last three hard-court tournaments, hitting his stride at a match he has always wanted to win, along with a couple Grand Slams.
Of course Juan Martin Del Potro, the 2008 defending champion, will challenge all takers. Since he is seeded #2, fans could be looking at a Del Potro/Roddick final. But that's a week away and the crystal ball is cloudy at this early date.
While Robert Kendrick and Mikhail Youzhny started the first match of the day on stadium court, crowds drifted to the clay courts that rim the tennis facility. Gathering on one of the near courts were two dozen, or more, touring pros on hand to play in the annual Washington Tennis & Education Foundation's (WTEF) Pro/Am fundraiser. The WTEF is the owner and beneficiary of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
The lucky amateurs were matched with Daniel Nestor, Kevin Ullyett, Magnus Norman (Robin Soderling's coach), Travis Parrott, big-serving Ivo Karlovic, Tommy Robredo, and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, to name a few of the players. Amateurs donated $1,000 to gain a spot on court alongside these hot tennis pros.
"The proceeds will support the WTEF programs," Lauren Hungarland, development associate at the WTEF, said. "With the player field we have this year, it's fun for everybody."
Meanwhile back on stadium court, Kendrick had won the first three games of the match at love against the Russian who had arrived recently from a clay court tournament (UMag) in Croatia. The transition from slow red clay to a fast hard court took time -- three sets, to be exact.
Youzhny defeated the American 75 36 61, however, gaining rhythm and confidence as the match progressed. By the third set, he had pulled together all the loose ends of his game.
"I started not so well," Youzhny said. "I was really slow. Sometimes I play good. It was a tough match for me. Finally I start to play well. He gave me shots to play."
Two qualifiers took to stadium court at the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center next: local favorite Somdev Devvarman and Yuichi Sugita. Devvarman is a two-time NCAA champion from the University of Virginia.
In less than twenty-eight minutes, Devvarman had clinched the first set 6/0. It looked bleak for the young Japanese player, who sprayed balls left and right. He would set up shots and misfire on winners. Not a good combination. However, after Devvarman ran off to a 3-love lead in the second set, Sugita turned the match around.
He broke and held, his aggression mounting as he won four games in a row to lead 4/3. Devvarman ended up too far behind the baseline and Sugita's athleticism and favored forehand cross-court found their stride and marks. Sugita had trouble returning the NCAA champs serve throughout most of the match, but his serving percentage sank allowing Sugita a window of opportunity. That is, right before the tiebreak when Devvarman's serve heated up again.
The see-saw tiebreak ended as unforced errors off Sugita's racquet crept back into his game. Devvarman won the match 60 76(6).