American tennis fans have a new name to keep track of, and though his first name is Ryan, it’s not the “Ryan” that first comes to mind. Ryan Sweeting, who despite being on the pro tour a few years longer than some of his more well-known and younger contemporaries, is finally making a name for himself. With his maiden ATP Tour title run at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston this week, Sweeting served noticed that U.S. Men’s tennis is very much still alive and well.
Going in as a slight favorite in the final, Kei Nishikori of Japan, despite playing well, seemed content to hang at the baseline for most of the match while it was Sweeting who made a concerted effort to move forward and try to end points at the net. While staying with Nishikori in extended rallies, it was Sweeting’s bigger serve, along with his ability to attack Nishikori’s own second serve, that won him easy points and secured him the first set 6-4. After going up an early break in the second, Sweeting gave the break back and for a moment it appeared the momentum might be switching Nishikori’s way.
Serving at 4-5, Sweeting saved a set point and then endured eight deuce games before finally holding after a Nishikori lob sailed just long. Once both men entered the tiebreak, the sense was Sweeting would need to close the match out in two sets. Despite double faulting away an early lead, Sweeting’s aggressive net play kept paying off as he used it to secure three match points. But he didn’t need all three, as during an extended rally, Sweeting forced Nishikori to hit a backhand long giving the American his first ever ATP Tour title with a 6-4, 7-6 (3) win.
With the win, Sweeting will now reach a career high ranking of approx. #71. And though it might be a tad too soon to say how this victory will equate into Sweeting’s overall 2011 season, it should give him and American tennis fans more confidence that things are indeed looking up for U.S. tennis.