The first three rounds of the Indianapolis Tennis Championships went exactly as predicted. The unseeded nobodies who were supposed to lose lost, and the big names dominated. But with the nine-hour delay on Friday, a series of unlikely upsets and dramatic tie-breakers came in with the rain. Then the underdogs took over.
It started when a starry-eyed American teenager named Sam Querrey defeated James Blake (10th ranked player in the world, last year’s champion and this year’s second seed) in Saturday morning’s quarter-final. Querrey is ranked 90th, has never made it past a quarter-final in an ATP tournament and was not old enough to buy a beer to celebrate — but the young American somehow clawed his way to a dramatic win; 7-6, 6-7, 7-6. He broke a modern-era record for consecutive aces with 10, according to www.atptennis.com.
The next match of the day put the top-seeded crowd favorite Andy Roddick against a Canadian named Frank Dancevic, who has never won consecutive matches in his entire career, and was the last player to qualify for this tournament. He drove himself nine hours from Canada to the Indy Tennis Championships after finding out just two days before his first match that he was competing. He also didn’t have a coach; so he picked up his girlfriend in Detroit on the way, as his only support.
A week later he found himself out-hustling the world’s fifth best player, and taking the first set. After Roddick took a 5-4 lead in the second set, Dancevic fought back to force a tie-breaker, and dominated it. He won the tie-break 7-1, and in a dizzy haze after the match he dropped his racket and grabbed his curly locks in disbelief. He’d beaten Andy Roddick in straight sets and would be heading to the finals to face third-seeded Dmitry Tursunov, who stifled the miracle run of 19-year-old Querrey later in the day.
Without the appeal of a household name like Roddick or Blake in Sunday’s final match, the crowd was sparse, but the storyline was epic — the scrappy underdog against a veteran on the comeback trail — and the fans rallied behind Dancevic. Dancevic’s family had loaded up the mini-van and drove down from Niagra Falls at 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, so Dancevic, without a practice partner, warmed up with his little sister.
Though Dancevic made a close match of it, Tursunov’s big-game experience was too much for Dancevic’s nerves, and Tursunov took home the title, 6-4, 7-5.
“A few years ago, I would have been losing my composure,” Tursunov said. “In a final you have pressure on you, every shot you hit.”
Preceding the singles final, Travis Parrott (USA) and Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) won the doubles championships, after having entered the field as alternates. They came to Indy not knowing if they’d even have a match, had never spoken a word to one another and they went home as the champions. Del Potro said that he doesn’t even play doubles to win — he just heard Parrott needed a partner and wanted an opportunity to get some practice in. Del Potro is 18 years old, 6-foot-6 and has a big game with a devastating serve, which allowed Parrott to stand at the net and tee-off on weak returns. “I just had to do the cleanup,” Parrott said.
Following the championship matches there were no booksignings or photo shoots, and the attendance suffered because of Roddick’s early absence. But Dancevic and Tursunov’s match had fans cheering — not for Roddick’s mid-match shirt change — but for two eager competitors playing their hearts out in front of Indy’s truest tennis fans.