GODFREY – An early morning rain Friday didn’t dampen the spirits of players or spectators during day seven of the 19th Annual Lewis and Clark Men’s Pro Tennis Classic.
No. 1 Tennys Sandgren had a very happy 25th birthday Friday when he defeated No. 8 Wil Spencer 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 after a two and a half hour quarterfinal match.
He will face former fellow University of Tennessee teammate Rhyne Williams in the semifinals Saturday at the Andy Simpson Tennis Complex.
Sandgren, of Gallatin, Tennessee, is ranked No. 334 in singles.
Earlier this year he won a singles title at the USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series event in Charlottesville, Virgina.
Sandgren won his first United States Tennis Association (USTA) Futures tournament at Lewis and Clark in 2011, and turned pro that year.
He peaked at No. 183 in the world in 2013 when he won the USTA Pro Circuit season-ending Challenger. Sandgren’s rise was disrupted by injury in 2014 when hip surgery sidelined him.
In 2015, he played USTA Pro Circuit and ITF Circuit events in China, Australia and Canada, winning two singles titles. He has won 10 career USTA/ITF singles titles and 15 doubles titles.
“I am really happy to get the win on my birthday, and to not be full body cramping in this weather after a three setter,” Sandgren said.
Playing his former teammate Rhyne Williams is something he knew could happen, but it wasn’t at the forefront of his mind. Williams qualified his way through to get to the semis.
“Rhyne and I just played semifinal doubles together yesterday in the tourney and we played a few weeks ago where he got me in a tight three setter,” Sandgren said. “We obviously know each other's games pretty well, so it just comes down to execution and fitness. It should be an entertaining match!”
Williams, of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Jonathan Chang, of Houston, Texas, have been playing tennis every day since the qualifying began six days ago. But Friday, it was Williams who earned a spot in the semifinals, when he defeated Chang 6-4, 6-2.
Williams agreed that playing Sandgren will be a challenge and a good show since they know each other’s games so well.
“It is never fun to play such a good friend. I can honestly say I'm not looking forward to it. But it is what it is and we have to go out there and do our best,” Williams said. “Since we've played so many times growing up in the juniors and at the professional level, there will be no surprises. Hopefully we put on a good match for anyone who comes out to watch.”
No. 2 Facundo Mena, of Argentina, posted a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 5 Marc Polmans, of Australia.
With an ATP ranking of No. 392, Mena is no stranger to tough competition. He has been playing in Futures and Challenger tournaments in Argentina and Columbia for the past two months—losing in the final singles round at the Columbia F1 and F2 Futures in June.
Mena said this is his first time at the Godfrey Futures and he plans to play in all of the Illinois Swing tournaments, which include Godfrey, Edwardsville (July 22-31), Decatur (July 30 – Aug. 7) and Champaign (Aug. 6-13.)
“This tennis facility is amazing and everyone here has been very kind,” Mena said. “I am looking forward to tomorrow’s match.”
Mena will play No. 6 Luke Bambridge, of Great Britain, who defeated American Collin Johns 6-0, 6-3 Friday.
Bambridge has a current singles rank of No. 527. He made Godfrey his first stop in back in the states after playing in Canada, Europe and Mexico earlier this spring and summer.
Polmans recently reached his career high singles ranking of No. 414 after winning the Mozambique F1 Futures, the Mozambique F2 Futures, and the Zimbabwe F2 Futures.