Tennys Sandgren spent the Orlando Storm’s off day on Wednesday embarking on a 13-mile jog on the trails surrounding The Greenbrier.
“I ended up in a creek, where I wasn’t supposed to be,” he said. “I was maybe a little concerned there were some bears, but luckily I made it through.”
That sent the proceedings to the all-important Supertiebreaker. But with some nifty shots of his own and some errors from Harrison, Sandgren was able to make it through that bear of a matchup and push his team to a 22-21 victory. The win improved Orlando’s record to 3-2 while San Diego fell to 1-3.
“It was really tough. He played tough in some big moments there, especially on his serve,” Sandgren said of Harrison after the match, steam emitting off his back after a set that lasted nearly 70 minutes. “I think I had a couple looks at some break points to kind of close that match out. He played well and then he played a great [tiebreaker] and sent it into overtime.”
Sandgren did have an opportunity to end the match during the Extended Play game. But that match point went by the boards as Harrison unleashed a 128-mph serve that handcuffed Sandgren’s return.
World TeamTennis had gone without a Supertiebreaker through the first five days of its season. Now, after Chicago Smash and the New York Empire broke that streak on Friday afternoon, Sandgren and Harrison were on the stage for the league’s second first-to-seven, match-deciding overtime.
It began with Sandgren splitting his first two service points. Harrison couldn’t take advantage as he hit a couple of balls long to put Sandgren back on serve with a 3-1 edge.
But Sandgren returned the favors equally with a double fault — his fourth of the set — and an unsuccessful forehand return after nearly being brought to his knees by a deep backhand liner from Harrison.
At 3-3, Harrison scored a winner with a drop shot following a power-heavy rally from both men, but the score was knotted once again when his attempted lob over Sandgren went past the baseline.
Sandgren created some daylight at 4-4 with a service winner and then brought himself a point from victory yet again by smacking a passing shot past the drawn-in Harrison. But the WTT All-Star would not relent; Harrison came back with an ace down the center at 132 mph.
“You could see the points kind of going back between offense and defense,” Sandgren said. “I’m coming to the net, he’s coming to the net, so it made for some interesting tennis, some interesting points.”
Finally, the curtain fell on this 3-plus-hour match with an 11-shot rally and with Harrison putting a little too much muscle behind a backhand stroke. As the ball traveled out, Sandren let loose a primal scream of exaltation. Harrison was left bent over with his head in his hands.
“It was a tough match,” Sandgren said.
It wasn’t the only one. Directly before the men ended the evening, Harrison and CoCo Vandeweghe outlasted the Storm’s Jessica Pegula and Ken Skupski in a mixed doubles tiebreaker, 5-4 (4). Pegula served the final point, but the return from Vandeweghe was launched wide by a leaping Skupski.
In women’s doubles, Pegula and Darija Jurak handed the team of Vandeweghe and Nicole Melichar their first loss of the season, triumphing 5-3.
Sandgren and Skupski made relatively quick work of Harrison and Jonny O’Mara in men’s doubles, 5-2. And in the opening set of the match, Christina McHale notched a 5-3 victory over Danielle Collins and Pegula, who was subbed into the women’s singles set with Orlando trailing 2-3 and love-30.
— Sandgren recorded three aces during that marathon singles set. The Aviators had five aces as a team Friday.
— The difference for the Storm in knocking off Vandeweghe and Melichar in doubles came on the second serve. Although Pegula and Jurak went just 4-for-8 on second serve points, the San Diego duo went 1-for-5. Those three points equal the set final margin in total points
The Storm will play next at noon ET Saturday against the Orange County Breakers (1-3). The Breakers finally got into the win column Friday with a 25-13 beatdown of the Vegas Rollers. Orange County took all five sets, including a 5-0 shutout in women’s doubles delivered by Gabriela Dabrowski and Andreja Kelpac. The match between the Storm and the Breakers will be broadcast on ESPN 2.
Brian Murphy is a writer based out of Orlando. He covers UCF athletics for a number of Orlando-based publications.
You can follow him on Twitter @Spokes_Murphy.