Man in black Tennys gets Cash-ed up
Classic winner shows rebellious side. By David Long and Marvin France.
For the last six months, Tennys Sandgren has been carrying a Johnny Cash T-shirt in his bag to tennis tournaments around the world.
But he’s never been able wear it – until now.
Born in Gallatin, Tennessee, the former home town of the late country music icon, Sandgren had always wanted to pay tribute to Cash should he ever win his first ATP Tour title.
It was only a small motivational ploy. But so often at the elite level in sport, it’s the little things that get you across the line.
And no sooner had he clinched championship point against Cameron Norrie in the ASB Classic final, did he don his black ‘American Rebel’ shirt to to celebrate a major career breakthrough eight years after turning pro.
‘‘Just repping Tennessee, man,’’ Sandgren said in the postmatch press conference, still in disbelief at the achievement.
‘‘[Cash] lived in Gallatin where I was born and raised and I got that from the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, where I’m from. I thought that would be a cool shirt to rep if could win it – and I had an all-white shirt if I had lost.
‘‘I’m going to wear it again some time, I hope. It will definitely have a special place.’’
Sandgren flew through the tournament without dropping a set, culminating in a 6-4 6-2 win over Norrie.
The 27-year-old flew under the radar right up until the final.
But he was a model of consistency, continually keeping the ball deep and pouncing on his opponent’s mistakes.
Time will tell if this will be a springboard to further success. But having removed a significant mental hurdle, he’s set himself up to make a leap.
‘‘I’ve been working hard to try and accomplish this goal but to actually realise that milestone is a big deal,’’ said Sandgren, who is set to go from 63rd to a careerhigh world ranking of 41.
‘‘I’ve been training with that intent and I’ve known it was something that was within my grasp.
‘‘But to actually do it, it obviously feels really good and it’s still surprising.’’
Sandgren had lost his last three matches against Norrie but he broke the Auckland-raised Briton a total of four times, while sending down seven aces.
The 23-year-old Norrie does appear to have a bright future, despite the loss.
With the impending retirement of Andy Murray, the British public are going to be closely watching Norrie, along with Kyle Edmund, from here and he’ll have to deal with the extra expectation on him.
He and Sandgren came on to the tour around the same time and the American has no doubt he can live up to those expectations.
‘‘He’s playing great. I thought today wasn’t his best day, I’ve definitely seen him play better against myself,’’ Sandgren said.
‘‘But he still did a lot of good things and I think he can beat almost anybody he steps on court with.
‘‘He can continue to climb and win tournaments and be in second weeks of slams, I think that’s a real possibility for sure.’’
Norrie had the home crowd on his side but saved his worst performance of the tournament for last.
Playing in his first ATP final, he was guilty of far too many unforced errors.
Tennys Sandgren attacks with a forehand shot during the ASB Classic final against Cameron Norrie.