©Colette Lewis 2005
Flushing Meadow NY--
When Ryan Sweeting saw Jeremy Chardy’s return fall weakly into the net, he collapsed on the baseline, his arms covering his eyes. For a long moment, he didn’t move. Recalling his tennis manners, he got up and jogged to the net to shake Chardy’s hand, his stunning 6-4, 6-4 victory the last magical moment in a dreamlike week at the U.S. Open Junior Championship.
”The whole adrenaline feeling just came out right there, just fell on the ground,” said the 18-year-old native of the Bahamas, who has lived and trained in Fort Lauderdale since he was twelve and has dual citizenship. “It was just a great feeling.”
He went directly from the net to his longtime coach Nicolas Guizar and they shared an lengthy and emotional embrace, then it was on to his mother Cindy.
“She was crying, my coach was crying too,” said Sweeting. “I wasn’t crying, but a lot of other emotions were going through my head.”
That tears would be flowing following a Grand Slam singles championship seemed unlikely six days ago, when he faced five match points in his first round encounter with 12th seed Carsten Ball. But after extracating himself from that pit and handily taking the ensuing tiebreak, the unseeded Sweeting was on his way, playing better with every new challenge.
His quarterfinal win over third seed Leonardo Mayer, who had beaten him in straight sets barely a week ago, was a hint that he was still scaling his tennis peak. Even he called his performance “surreal” after that match. Otherworldly would probably be the adjective to describe his play in the 6-0 second set semifinals blitz of sixth seed Sun-Yong Kim, who had upset number one Donald Young in the quarters.
And Sunday’s straight set conquest of the Wimbledon Junior Champion from southwestern France, whose ITF resume displays much greater experience and results, was equal parts Rocky and Dali.
Although he admitted to nervousness, Sweeting's take on that dreaded feeling was unique.
“I think when I’m nervous I play better. Like yesterday, during the changeover, my hands were shaking. And today there was a bigger crowd you know, the cameras…I felt the nerves…the adrenaline. But it seemed to give me that edge, you know, wanting to win the title.”
Chardy’s serve, though unclocked during the Open tournament, had hit 140 in the Wimbledon final, but getting in only 38% of his first ones gave Sweeting plenty of swings at the seconds. There were only two breaks in the entire match, one in the third game, when Chardy served his way out of a 0-40 hole, but ultimately couldn’t save it, and at the 4 all in the second, when Chardy committed the most disastrous of his nine double faults to give Sweeting his chance to serve it out.
Chardy didn’t blame his serve, but rather his mentality. “I wasn’t aggressive,” he said through an interpreter. “I was mentally negative and his aggressive backhand and forehand kept me on the defensive.”
Sweeting now faces new choices. Andy Jackson, the head coach at the University of Florida, was among his dedicated group of supporters throughout the tournament. Sweeting had planned to join the Gator team in January, but now isn’t so sure.
“It definitely puts a question mark on it. It doesn’t necessarily change everything, but we’re definitely going to have to sit down and talk about it and see what the plans are for the future. Because I don’t think too many champions of the US Open go on to college in a couple of months.”
Sweeting’s immediate plans include a trip to San Antonio to work out with friend Kellen Damico at John Roddick’s academy and play some Futures in that area.
And hope that the fairy tale that began at the U.S. Jr. Open never ends.
Sunday, September 11, 2005