AUSSIE OPEN BUZZ: Never Mind a Boy Named Sue, How ’bout a Tennis Player Named Tennys?

Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Bill Simons

NICK AT NIGHT: The gloriously talented Nick Kyrgios, who has been said to be the greatest athlete to come into the men’s game since Federer, scored an emotional four-set win over a spirited Frenchman who he began idolizing in 2008. Kyrgios’ 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(5) triumph over Jo-Willie Tsonga, which was the Aussie’s first ever on Laver Arena, sparked a spirited Friday night of delight. Sure, Nick has no coach, not that many filters and has yet to gain a Slam. All that’s very much a part of the charm of this moody, spontaneous man who is growing by the day. Only the second player to have beaten Nadal, Federer and Djokovic the first time he faced them, he is giving, growing, complex and fascinating. His shot-making dazzles and he approaches the sometimes soul-deadening grind they call professional tennis with a free-form mindset. He’s part Greek, part Malayasian and all Aussie. He can baffle, bite, implode or amaze. But these days he’s inspiring. And you can bet the mortgage on this – for years tennis will be talking about this gifted shot-maker who has such an intriguing, fasten-your-seat-belt personality. The guy may tank a match here or there – just ask the good folks at Wimbledon. And tonight he didn’t break Jo-Willie once. But don’t you see? Nick doesn’t do dull. For now, he next battles No. 3 seed Grigor Dimitrov in a fourth round face-off of A-list Next Gen stars. And yes, Nick beat the Bulgarian two weeks ago in Brisbane and has a shot to march all the way to the Oz title. And what a tale that would be. 

BREAKING NEWS: Roger Federer, whose one-handed backhand is the most beautiful stroke in the game, revealed that he won’t teach his kids (and there are four of them) one-handed backhands. He says a two-hander is more reliable.

A SAD SIGN OF THE TIMES: The Chinese city of Shenzhen will offer $14 million a year for ten years for the WTA’s year-end championship, while the venerable 36-year-old Bank of the West tournament at Stanford, after 21 years, will not return to the campus and, as of now, has its future in doubt.

NEVER MIND A BOY NAMED SUE, HOW ‘BOUT A TENNIS PLAYER NAMED TENNYS: This is about sports names. Any Midwestern sports fan knows that almost every state celebrates its “Mr. Basketball” – the high school player who is most dominant. On ice there was “Mr. Hockey,” the NHL’s legendary Gordie Howe.
As for the gridiron, just a while ago football was all aglow about “Johnny Football,” i.e. Johnny Manziel. In the ’90s, there was a Tom Sellleck movie called “Mr. Baseball.” But we don’t think there is any real-life person called Jiminy Cricket.
As for tennis, there’s one name that pops out – young Tennys Sandgren, who, yes, is a product of the University of “Tennis-see” in Nashville, and is into the third round of the Aussie Open. Yesterday, after the personable American swept past former Aussie Open champ Stan Warwrinka, the press corps managed to ask six questions before his press conference dove deep into the nuance of his name.

Q. We’ve come really far in this press conference without mentioning your first name. 
TENNYS: Good job, everybody [laughter].
Q. What’s the best story you have about your name? 
TENNYS: It’s [people asking] “What’s your name?” “Tennys.” “Well, you play tennis. Tennis ball.” Things like that. [I] politely shake my head and say, ‘Yeah, I do”…Then you get the story, “I played in high school once. I had a tennis racquet.” It’s all cool, but do you want to talk about something else?…I don’t give my name when I order a coffee. I say “David”…I don’t want to deal with the whole name thing when I get a coffee, especially first thing in the morning. I’d prefer to get the caffeine, then I can think about approaching the day.
Q. You know that Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue”?
TENNYS: “A Boy Named Sue’,” that’s not how I feel about it. I don’t hold a grudge or have sheer anger at life because of my name. No, no, no. It’s something unique and cool. It’s part of who I am…I don’t know how many people you meet that have the same name as the sport they play. It’s weird…I can put myself in somebody else’s shoes when they come across that. “What the heck, man? What’s your deal?”

“She’s kind of a drifter.” – Chris Evert on the unseeded Maria Sharapova
“I’m still 15.” – Ukrainian teen Marta Kostyuk, whose wonder run finally came to an end
“Everybody needs encouragement when it’s this hot.” – Pam Shriver
“It’s professional sports, it’s not meant to be easy.” – Kyle Edmund
“I don’t think there is a player out there who has a bigger first-hit forehand than Juan Martin del Potro. He hits clean center, big balls.” – Brad Gilbert
“I was already lost and now have a chance to win.” – the Croatian-American lucky loser Bernarda Pera, who beat No. 9 seed Jo Konta to make it to the third round
“You can’t imagine if he gets healthy, him not winning more majors.” – John McEnroe on Djokovic

ROGER PLAYS SECOND FIDDLE: Billie Jean King invited Maria Sharapova to London to watch the premiere of “Battle of the Sexes.” In contrast, Roger Federer confided that he saw the movie on a plane. (We bet he was in first class or on a private jet.) BTW: Fed said of the movie, “It’s Hollywood, it’s powerful, it’s moving. It was great acting. The story of Billie Jean is very interesting.”

SAY IT ISN’T SO: According to Steve Pierce, “Pablo Carreno Busta has taken the role of David Ferrer. People say, ‘Yeah, he’s just the other Spaniard”…The Daria Gavrilova-Elise Mertens match began at 11:59 pm. The latest finish of an Aussie Open match was at 4:33 am when Lleyton Hewitt beat Marcos Baghdatis in 2008.

GO FIGURE: Tennys Sandgren, who beat former champion Stan Wawrinka to reach the third round, remembers having a few beers in 2016 in a New York bar and watching as Wawrinka was about to win the US Open. His thoughts were simple: “That’s insane, an inhuman level of tennis.”


DOING IT HIS OWN WAY: Nick Kyrgios is nothing if not unconventional. The Aussie doesn’t have a coach and he prepares in his own way. Before matches in Cincy last summer he’d play hoops. And yes, he reached the final of the tournament. Yesterday, he played three sets of doubles with Matt Reid as a favor to his mate.


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