MELBOURNE — Tennys Sandgren has found himself in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open after having never won a main-draw match before. Little is known about the 26-year-old but this fortnight he has scored victories over Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem.
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Get to know dark horse Tennys Sandgren
Published Jan 22, 2018
"It's not about finding belief," Sandgren said. "I know that I'm good enough to do good things in the game. This is confirmation for me."
It's time the world learned more about Sandgren:
He's based in Nashville
While many Americans live near national training centers (in California, Florida and New York), the Nashville native has stayed close to home. The former University of Tennessee Volunteer hired Jim Madrigal (a long-time coach at Belmont University) last spring after years of traveling solo on the ITF and ATP Challenger tours.
Gaming is his dream job
His ATP bio lists his favorite sports team as the Unicorns of Love video game team. If he wasn’t playing tennis, he would be “a failed pro gamer.”
"In my dreams—it's not the backup plan because I'm not good enough, unfortunately," he said. "It's like the idea of going on vacation forever, it's not a realistic thing. It'd be fun if I was good enough."
The Top 100 was his main goal
Since the age of 14, Sandgren chased the dream of cracking the Top 100. He achieved it last fall and is now expected to rise to at least No. 55. Sandgren wasn't quick to make a new goal, though.
"I haven't made much of a living at that point, but if I can make this then I've achieved what I wanted to achieve," Sandgren said. "Once I hit that mark it was a little bit of an adjustment period. That was my goal, what do I aim for now?"
His mom was his coach
Like many players, Sandgren's first coach was a parent, his mom Lia. She didn't make the trip (he said she's realistic and expected a short trip), but she got injured celebrating his success this week.
"They were jumping up and down, celebrating. She fell onto the pool table, cracked a rib," Sandgren said. "I was pretty worried. She went to the hospital, thankfully. She's lying down, resting, watching some tennis and having a good time."
He never seriously considered giving up
Like any player in their mid-20s, grinding on the lower rungs of the tour and fighting back from hip surgery had its challenges. But Sandgren stuck with it.
"I haven't ever really been close to retiring. I've threatened myself, that kind of thing," he said. "There were moments where I'm not really getting better—where I'm struggling or not healthy. It's like OK is this the best way I can spend my 20s? I made sure it was indeed something that I was passionate about. I think I made the right decision to keep going."
He's now guaranteed to walk away with—at least—his biggest check to date ($440,000) and 360 ATP points.