Cham­pion has ready Cash

Pride of the state of Ten­nessee on show when Sand­gren storms through sin­gles fi­nal

Hawke's Bay Today - - Sport - Michael Burgess

All the risks I have been tak­ing on the court, it all kind of worked out for me. Ten­nys Sand­gren

For the last six months, Ten­nys Sand­gren has car­ried a spe­cial Johnny Cash T-shirt in his bag. A Ten­nessee na­tive, the 27-yearold Sand­gren is im­mensely proud of his home, where the iconic singer­song­writer spent much of his life. Sand­gren promised him­self he would wear it if he ever won an ATP ti­tle, an­don Satur­day, that dream came true. Af­ter seven years as a pro­fes­sional, the world No 63 had his break­through win in Auck­land, trump­ing home­town favourite Cameron Nor­rie 6-4 6-2 in the ASB Clas­sic fi­nal. A ju­bi­lant Sand­gren cel­e­brated af­ter match point, then went to his bag to re­trieve the prized black T-shirt. “[I’m] just rep­ping Ten­nessee,” ex­plained Sand­gren. “He lived in Gal­latin, when I was born and raised. I got it in the Johnny Cash mu­seum in Nashville, where I am from. I thought that would be a cool shirt to rep if I could win it. If I was the [run­ner-up], I had a white shirt, if I won I was like ‘I’ll wear the shirt that I want to wear’.” Sand­gren’s lucky me­mento al­most didn’t make the trip down un­der, as he mis­placed it dur­ing the off sea­son. “I briefly lost it for a while — I didn’t know where it was then I found it be­fore this trip,” said Sand­gren. “I was like ‘yeah I found it and if ev­ery­thing goes well, I can wear it’. It’s cool, a lit­tle fun . . . got to find a lit­tle mo­ti­vat­ing fac­tor in there.” Con­sid­er­ing what he showed in Auck­land last week, it surely won’t be the last time that the face of Johnny Cash is seen at a tour­na­ment prize­giv­ing around the world. Sand­gren ar­rived here as an af­ter­thought — he was the last di­rect en­try in the main draw and over­shad­owed by plenty of big­ger names — but he was on song all week. He didn’t drop a set through­out the tour­na­ment, par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive in a sec­ond round de­mo­li­tion of world No 18 Marco Cecchi­nato and a one-sided win over for­mer Auck­land cham­pion Philipp Kohlschreiber in the semi­fi­nal. “That’s weird,” said Sand­gren of his un­bro­ken run. “Ten­nis doesn’t nor­mally work that way. All the risks I have been tak­ing on the court, it all kind of worked out for me.” De­spite his long wait for a ATP tro­phy, Sand­gren in­sisted it wasn’t on his mind as he made his way through the field. “I’ve been work­ing hard to try and ac­com­plish that goal but to ac­tu­ally do it, to ac­tu­ally re­alise that milestone is a big deal for me,” said Sand­gren. “[But] I didn’t think about that un­til to­day hon­estly. Even be­ing in the quar­ter-fi­nals, ev­ery match my op­po­nent has been re­ally good. So I have been tak­ing it one match at the time.” Sand­gren was a class above in the fi­nal, while Nor­rie strug­gled to match the lev­els reached ear­lier in the week. World No 90 Nor­rie had dom­i­nated their pre­vi­ous en­coun­ters — with a 4-2 ad­van­tage in head to head matches — but that never looked likely. The for­mer Kiwi, who plays un­der the Bri­tish flag, made an un­cer­tain start. Af­ter only drop­ping serve twice in the whole week — and not at all un­til the semi­fi­nal — the 23-year-old was bro­ken in his first ser­vice game. He also strug­gled in the next one, fend­ing off a cou­ple of break op­por­tu­ni­ties, and that un­for­tu­nately set the tone for the match. Nor­rie, who had been so pre­cise through­out the week, couldn’t find his range and made plenty of un­forced er­rors in his first ATP de­cider. There were mo­ments of bril­liance, but not quite enough. “He was solid through­out, not mak­ing many er­rors and I over-pressed a lit­tle bit,” re­flected Nor­rie. “He was mov­ing un­be­liev­ably this week and to­day, and he served great. I was do­ing a cou­ple of things well here and there, but couldn’t re­ally bring it all to­gether. It was too good from him — I’m happy for him.”

Photo / Getty Im­ages

ASB Clas­sic cham­pion Ten­nys Sand­gren couldn’t wait to don his prized Johnny Cash T-shirt af­ter tak­ing out the sin­gles ti­tle.

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