EDWARDSVILLE — Tennys Sandgren is looking to follow up his title at the Lewis and Clark Men's Pro Tennis Classic with more success. He got off to a good start on Wednesday at the Edwardsville Futures.
Sandgren, a University of Tennessee grad and the No. 2 seed in Edwardsville, took down local juniors phenom from Missouri, Carson Haskins, 6-4, 6-3 in the first round on Wednesday.
It was a tough task for Sandgren, but he was up to the test. Haskins, a soon-to-be-senior at Parkway South was 25-0 last season, capping his junior campaign with a Missouri state championship. On Wednesday he made his pro debut at the Edwardsville Futures with a large crowd on hand to cheer him on.
Sandgren, 25, knew he was entering Edwardsville with a target on his back after his recent Futures crown in Godfrey.
“Guys know you're playing pretty well and they need to bring their best game to possibly take you down, so there's no sneaking up on anyone,” Sandgren said. “They know what to expect and bring a certain level of competitiveness every time.”
For Haskins, who is currently ranked 11th nationally on the tennis recruiting network, it was an eye opener facing a talented pro player.
“Most juniors don't really serve like that,” Haskins said. “He had a great serve and it was fun while it lasted.
“There's a huge difference in the serve and the return. I served pretty well this match actually, but he still got quite a few of the returns back.
“For my first Futures tournament and playing against guys at this level it's good. I didn't win obviously, but it was a good experience and I know what I need to work on and I had fun.”
Sandgren admitted Haskins was a formidable opponent, but thought he would be able to use his experience as an advantage and that's what he did on Wednesday.
“The level is entirely different and he wasn't exactly sure what to do,” Sandgren said. “But after three or four games he started coming into his own and playing within himself. He was aggressive and it was a tough match for sure.
“I knew if I kept a good rally ball going I knew I'd have looks at shots and have some shorter balls to take advantage of and I did, but he also played really good defense and he didn't give me a lot of court to hit it into.”
Haskins won the Edwardsville Open earlier in the summer to earn a wildcard into the Futures, so he feels comfortable at the EHS Tennis Center. Seeing the amount of fans out to watch him Wednesday was a huge boost and one he appreciated.
“I kind of consider this my hometown,” Haskins said. “It's fun having a lot of people here cheering for me and watching me play.”
Sandgren is hoping to continue his ascension through the Edwardsville field, but he knows it won't be easy. The “Illinois Swing” on the USTA Futures circuit is luring top notch talent and making it tough. It starts in Godfrey, continues in Edwardsville and then heads to Decatur and Champaign over the next two weekends. Sandgren hopes his body can hold out for all four events.
“Having four (tournaments) in a short driving distance and all $25,000, I feel really blessed that this is an opportunity,” Sandgren said. “The field is really tough. This is one of the strongest Futures you'll find in the world all year this week, but it's a great opportunity and definitely blessed that the USTA and Edwardsville were able to pull this off.”
Next up for Sandgren will be a showdown with his former college doubles teammate at Tennessee, Rhyne Williams. Williams won his first round match on Tuesday.
All of the seeded singles players advanced on Wednesday, including No. 1 seed Blake Mott and No. 3 seed and defending Edwardsville Futures champ Evan King. Mott won 6-3, 6-3 over Mexico's Lucas Gomez and King bested Vasil Kirkov 6-4, 6-2.
Other advancing players were: No. 4 Omar Jasika, No. 5 Facundo Mena, No. 6 Gonzalo Escobar, No. 7 Connor Smith, No. 8 Marc Polmans, Christian Harrison, Tom Fawcett, Emil Reinberg and John McNally.
In doubles the top seeded tandem of Luke Bambridge and Polmans, along with the team of King and Michael Zhu moved on to the semifinals.
Play continues at 9 a.m. on Thursday at the EHS Tennis Center.