Junior player knows name of this game

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NEW YORK - He might have the game. He certainly has the name.

Tennys Sandgren, now on court at the U.S. Open.

"I probably was destined to play," the 16-year-old junior competitor from Gallatin, Tenn., said Monday.

OK, there's a catch. His name - pronounced exactly like the sport - has nothing to do with athletics. It belonged to his great-grandfather.

When Sandgren was born, his parents thought it was a perfect fit. His dad was a teaching tennis pro, his mother was a huge fan.

"It's a good thing our favorite sport wasn't baseball," mom Lia said. "Then we would've had to have named him Bat or something like that. Even now, I sometimes call him Batty for fun."

"It took a little courage. It's odd," she said.

Which is fine with Sandgren.

"It has gotten me some extra attention. People always ask me about it," he said. "It might be easier if I was named Jim, but it wouldn't be as much fun."

Participating in his first Grand Slam event, Sandgren split a pair of matches Monday in the boys division. He lost to Greg Jones 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), then came back a few hours later to team with James Bo Seal to beat Bernard Tomic and Mark Verryth 6-2, 6-4 in doubles.

Sandgren had a dozen family members and friends watching him, and they punctuated the matches with shouts of "Come on, Tennys!"

Having heard that since he began playing in tournaments at age 7, he hardly noticed. His opponent did, however.

"It was a little strange," Jones said.

Sandgren is home schooled and has three more years left. His brother, Davey, plays college tennis at Tennessee, but Tennys is looking in another direction.

"I'd rather go pro, if I could," he said. "We'll see how that works out."

All in all, Sandgren enjoyed his first trip to New York.

He got into Ashe to see Rafael Nadal play. He also spent a lot of time in the players' lounge. At one point, he was sitting on a couch and Martina Hingis wound up next to him.

"I didn't talk to her. It was a little intimidating," he said.

Before this week, Sandgren talked to his mom, who doubles as his coach, about setting a goal for the week. Rather than wins and losses, they spoke in terms of getting experience and exposure to big-time tennis.

Just another step for the young man named Tennys.

"I used to worry a bit about how people would treat him with his name," Lia said. "Kids used to tease him about it, but they were never cruel. A few years ago, it made me feel good when he told me, 'Mom, I really like my name.'"


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