Tennys Sandgren's game, and name, on the rise in Australia
By JUSTIN BERGMAN
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Tennys Sandgren has heard all the jokes about his name. It's reached the point where he doesn't even use it anymore when ordering a coffee.
"I say `David' or something like that. I don't want to deal with the whole name thing ... especially first thing in the morning," Sandgren said.
With Sandgren's upset win over former champion Stan Wawrinka in the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday night, his name is only bound to become better known. He just hopes people start talking about his actual tennis game, too.
Sandgren's rise in the last year has been as sudden as it was unexpected. When Wawrinka was winning the 2016 U.S. Open, Sandgren remembers watching it on television while having beers at a bar. His ranking was No. 263 and he'd lost a couple weeks earlier in the first round of U.S. Open qualifying.
"I tried to put myself in those guys' shoes, like what would that take, and could I ever play at a level like that?" he said.
Then, in early 2017, the Tennessee native started to find out. He won two tournaments on the lower-tier Challenger Tour and reached the final of another, earning him a wild card spot in the main draw at the French Open - his first Grand Slam event.
Sandgren lost in the first round at Roland Garros, but the results kept coming. Last summer, he notched a win over Nick Kyrgios when the Australian retired in their second-round match at Washington and cracked the top 100 for the first time.
Now, the No. 97 Sandgren has earned by far the biggest win of his career over the ninth-seeded Wawrinka, whom he beat 6-2, 6-1, 6-4, and is into the third round of the Australian Open - his best result at a major.
"When you play Futures and Challengers for three, four years, you're playing in obscurity," he said. "You play the game for other reasons. You don't play the game for money or attention. You play the game because you like to play. You play the game because you enjoy the journey.
"If it wasn't that, I probably would have stopped because there isn't a lot of attention or money or anything like that where I've played the majority of my career."
There will be plenty of attention on the 26-year-old Sandgren when he plays his next match against 22-year-old Maxmilian Marterer of Germany. Marterer, ranked 94th, has even less experience at this stage than Sandgren - the German player just won his first ATP-level match in the first round at Melbourne Park.
One of them will soon be playing in the second week of a Grand Slam - and at least $192,000 in prize money.
"Take it one day at a time. You don't run a marathon by running all (26) miles. You run each step, each mile. You look back and think, wow," he said. "I'll have a great opportunity on Saturday. It will be a lot of fun."
As for the name, which was handed down from his Swedish great-grandfather, Sandgren said he won't be bothered if it continues to be a topic of conversation after his surprising run at Melbourne Park.
"I tell myself every new person that I explain this to is just one more person I don't have to explain it to in the future," he said. "It's just part of who I am. I'm OK with that."
Updated January 19, 2018