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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Spencer Wins Niceville Futures; Top Seeds Xu and Chung Take ITF Asia Oceania Grade B1 Titles; Bryans Win World Tour Finals

It was by no means easy, but Wil Spencer would not be denied the fairy tale ending.  After winning four matches in a wild card tournament to get into the main draw of the $10,000 Niceville Futures, the 25-year-old from nearby Ponce de Leon kept collecting win after win in the main draw.  When, after nearly three hours of play Sunday, he put away Texas A&M-Corpus Christi senior Peter Nagy 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, the former Georgia star had collected the first Futures title of his career.

Prior to this week, Spencer had never won a Futures match, although he hadn't even played in an ITF Men's Circuit tournament since 2008. He went to Texas A&M that year and then after his sophomore year, transferred to Georgia, where he was an All-American in his junior and senior years, finishing in 2012.  Spencer played the qualifying of the ATP Atlanta tournament those years, picking up one win in 2011, but after that, he worked at a club in North Carolina, and didn't play any sanctioned events until this week.  What prompted him to come back isn't clear, but he couldn't have picked a better place, with a less than star-studded field and the huge support he received from local fans all week.

Against Nagy, Spencer fell behind 3-1 in the first set, won four straight games but then got broken serving for the set.  He broke Nagy however, and went up 2-0 in the second set, only to lose the next six games.

The many fans in attendance, highly unusual for a Futures tournament, were subdued when Spencer was broken in the first game of the third set, making that seven straight games lost, but he broke back in the second game, then went ahead 4-2.  The seventh game was a long and tense affair, with nine deuces and Spencer saving three break points to make it 5-2.  Serving for the match at 5-3, Spencer had two match points, but Nagy fought those off and broke for 5-4. It was only then that Nagy, a 22-year-old from Hungary, cracked, going down 0-40.  He saved one more match point, but Spencer converted his fourth chance to set off an exuberant celebration by the fans.

Ken Thomas, who called the match for radiotennis.com, pronounced it the best Pro Circuit match he's called all year, and given the circumstances, it's hard to argue. Although I could only listen, Ken made it clear that the level of play and the competitive spirit of both players was extraordinary, and he was obviously enjoying the chance to witness and comment on such a match.  All credit to Nagy, but a Spencer victory was the most satisfying end to the story.

Nagy is in the draw in next week's Futures in Pensacola.  Spencer did not receive a wild card--those went to Alex Rybakov, Quinton Vega and former Florida State players Anderson Reed and Dominic Cotrone--but after nine matches in eleven days, that may be for the best.

At the ITF Asia Oceania Grade B1 in Korea, top seeds Shilin Xu of China and Yunseong Chung of Korea, both 16, won the singles championships.  Xu, defending the singles and doubles titles from 2013, again swept both, defeating No. 3 seed Wushuang Zheng of China 7-6(4), 6-2 in the singles final and teaming with Sara Tomic of Australia to take the doubles title. The No. 1 seeds defeated No. 7 seeds Mayka Aikawa and Chihiro Muramatsu of Japan 6-4, 7-5 in the final.  By defending both titles, Xu will return to the top of the ITF girls rankings after losing that spot to CiCi Bellis when last year's points from the B1 came off a week earlier.

Chung, also the defending champion, will move up in the rankings from his current position of 16 after his 6-1, 7-5 victory in the final over unseeded Naoto Kai of Japan.

Given their college background, I probably should devote more coverage to the Bryan twins than I usually do, but it's true they don't lack for recognition.  Today the 1998 NCAA champions at Stanford won the World Tour Finals doubles championship, beating Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil. The Bryans had not had great success at this tournament in the past, last winning it in 2009, and they started off with a loss in the round robin competition, but they finished well, beating Dodig and Melo 6-7(5), 6-2, 10-7 in the final.  For more from the Bryans, see this article from the ATP.