WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va.—Tennys Sandgren has been playing some great tennis this summer, but it hasn’t really counted until now. The Orlando Storm triple threat got to be the first official match of the 2020 World TeamTennis season on Sunday, and he clinched the first win.
Since the COVID-19 shutdown, WTT is the biggest live tennis event and first sport's league to start on time.
On opening day, Sandgren scored a singles win over Springfield Lasers' Mitchel Krueger, came back on court for a doubles win with James Ward and sealed the Extended Play victory in mixed doubles alongside Jessica Pegula.
“I’ve played a couple of exhibitions the last two weeks, but this will be definitely the most competitive tennis I’ve played in a long time,” Sandgren says.
Before coming to The Greenbrier, the 28-year-old won the Miami exhibition held by J.C. Aragone, which included Reilly Opelka, Hubert Hurcacz, Mackie McDonald and fellow WTT competitors Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson and Brandon Nakashima. Sandgren also competed for Team Stripes in the DraftKings All-American Team Cup in Atlanta.
With no tour events held since March, he’ll be one of the better prepared WTT players this month. And at No. 55 in the world, Sandgren is one of the higher ranked players this season.
His attitude doesn’t reflect any hubris.
“I think everybody is ready to go, competition will be stiff,” he says. “There's a lot of great players here.”
Sandgren is in his third season of WTT action. (Ryan Loco)
The season is still very, very young but Sandgren is a perfect 3-0 on the singles court with wins over Krueger, Querrey and Nakashima.
It helps that coming out of the four-month shutdown, the Australian Open quarterfinalist is in peak physical shape. He's showing it off with a few shirtless practices (to be fair, it's brutally hot during the day).
"I did go work out a lot because there was nothing else to do," he says. "I did spend a good amount of time in the gym. It was nice to get out of the house and do something for a while other than looking at a screen."
Sandgren also kept busy during the shutdown by showing off his humor online.
Everyone hitting balls against the wall, but have they tried repeatedly sending their head into the wall yet?— Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren) April 8, 2020
I can attest it’s a fast way to kill a few hours!
"It's hard to be funny and not offend anybody," he says. "It's the nature of comedy to push the envelope, to say something kind of out there. It's a fine line I guess, but it's fun when something's just there."
If Novak doesn’t get covid I’m gonna start blessing my water with positive vibes— Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren) June 22, 2020
And for all you Call of Duty fans, there was this:
Is there a ‘skip to gulag’ button in quarantine?— Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren) April 23, 2020
After all, Sandgren has said that if he wasn’t a pro tennis player, he would be a failed pro gamer.
"I did play a lot of video games. I played mostly League of Legends," he said. "My only human interaction was through video games. The first few days I played for 11 hours straight and then after 15 minutes three weeks in, I was just like, I'm tired, I just can't do this anymore."
On top of his fitness and match play, the Tennessee native has another advantage: Hip surgery forced him off the tour for six months in 2014, so he was somewhat experienced in handling a long hiatus.
“You forget how to play tennis a little bit,” he says. “You forget how difficult it is: the decision-making, the pressure, all of those things. In WTT, there's that added pressure that you’re playing for a team. But at the same time, it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Orlando is 2-1 so far and will enjoy its first day off on Wednesday before returning against New York on Thursday night.
For more photos, videos, results and live action from World TeamTennis, go to WTT.com.