A veteran will face an up-and-comer in the final of the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship. In day three of competition, the top two seeds came out on top with No. 1 Blake Strode and No. 2 Cecil Mamiit advancing to Sunday’s final to compete for a wild card into the 2010 US Open Qualifying Tournament. After two days of competing outside in intense heat, players moved indoors at the Atlanta Athletic Club to keep the Atlanta Tennis Championships on schedule.
In the first match of the day, No. 1 seed Strode, 23, of St. Louis, faced off against Haiti native and No. 3 seed Olivier Sajous, 23, of Plantation, Fla. Strode played an impressive first set, firing six aces and winning 84 percent of his first serve points. He had three break points in the first set against Sajous and then broke at the end of the set to take it 6-3. Strode then cruised through the second set, winning 6-3, 6-0. This was Strode’s first straight-sets win of the tournament.
Strode, a product of his local NJTL chapter in St. Louis, was a standout at the University of Arkansas and deferred Harvard Law School to go pro. He competed in the US Open Qualifying Tournament last year as a wild card and is looking to make a repeat visit. Prior to the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship, Strode won the USTA Southwest Sectional Qualifying Tournament. He lost just seven games in five matches to take that title, including two 6-0, 6-0, victories in the first and second rounds.
In the other match, veteran Mamiit, 34, of South Pasadena, Calif., faced No. 4 seed Chris Wettengel, 28, of Saratoga, Calif. Mamiit and Wettengel both exchanged breaks of serve, when Mamiit then broke Wettengel to take the first set 7-5. In the second set, with crowds echoing on the indoor courts, Mamiit, who is 5’8”, was able to outrun Wettengel and advance 7-5, 6-3.
Mamiit, a Philippines Davis Cup captain and competitor, has played in the US Open main draw four times (1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000) and peaked to world No. 72 in 1999. He also appeared in each of the four Grand Slams, advancing to the second round at all but Wimbledon. Before reaching the finals of the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championships, Mamiit won the USTA Southern California Sectional Qualifying Tournament. He lost just eight games in six matches in the event with one opponent withdrawal and one 6-0, 6-0, victory in the semifinals.
The US Open will have a definite presence in Sunday’s US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship final, as both Strode and Mamiit have competed in the tournament. Even though 11 years of age and levels of tennis experience separate the two opponents, both the veteran and the up-and-comer will have their eyes set on Flushing Meadows to return to the tournament any player would love to compete.
The final of the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship will be broadcast live on Tennis Channel at 5:30 p.m. and streamed live on ESPN3.com.