As the morning deluge subsided, sixteen aspiring tennis players took to the courts Saturday and took their first step towards a spot in the BB&T Atlanta Open draw. The top four finishers will qualify for tournament draw play.
The day’s first match featured 26 year old Michael Shabaz and Georgia Tech junior Nathan Rakitt from Marietta. Rakitt struggled with his serve double faulting six times. While Shabaz wasn’t particularly sharp, the former UVA star kept the ball in play winning over 70 pct of his service points and 65 pct of his second return points.
Argentinean Facundo Mena punched his ticket to the next round of qualifying defeating American Korey Lovett. Lovett took an early 4 games to 1 lead but needed to hold on to win the first set in a tie-breaker. Mena continued riding the momentum mustered towards the end of the first set to win the second set 6-4. By the third set, Mena was in total control winning 85 percent of his first service points.
Fritz Wolmarans struggled in the first set against Neal Skupski before edging the Englishman 7-6 in the tiebreaker. The second set looked nothing like the first as the South African rolled to a 6-1 win. Skupski was his own worst enemy giving away points on 8 double faults in the match.
Former Georgia Tech All-American Juan Carlos Spir and former Louisville Cardinal Andrew Carter battled for an hour and a half in a match that included two tie-breaker sets. Spir claimed the first set and Carter the second. In the third and deciding set, Spir jumped out to a 2-0 lead behind a bevy of well-placed serves. The native of Colombia won 13 of 14 first service points in a 6-1 runaway.
The third match on the stadium court featured 16 year old tennis phenom Francis Tiafoe. The junior did not disappoint his opponent, 31 year old Benjamin Balleret from Monaco. Balleret struggled on serve winning only 14 of 26. Tiafoe improved as the game wore on tightening up on his serves winning 13 of 17 first serves and 4 of 6 second serves. His return game accounted for more 23 more points than his opponent.
Jean-Yves Aubone needed a win in a second set tie breaker to dispatch Ken Skupski. The older Skupski brother struggled from the service line with 5 double faults.
American Ryan Shane advanced over German Frank Moser with consecutive winning sets after losing the first set. Shane used the momentum garnered from winning the tie-breaker in the second set to propel him in the third. The rising University of Virginia junior won 9 of 10 first service points in the deciding set.
USA’s Becker O’Shauhnessey proved his wild card ticket to the Qualifier was no fluke. The Crimson Tide rising junior dispatched Mexico’s Santiago Gonzalez 6-4, 6-2.
Qualifying resumes at 11:00am on Sunday concluding Monday afternoon. Kids get in free Sunday with a parent holding a valid tournament ticket for Sunday. Sunday evening actor Boris Kodjoe and several tournament players will take part in an exhibition match on the Stadium Court. Opening night ceremonies take place Monday evening.
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