2011 U.S. OPEN NATIONAL PLAYOFFS: Two for Two! Blake Strode Repeats As Men's National Playoffs Winner!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Blake Strode, USA - 2011 U.S. Open National Playoffs Men's Champion
He's done it again!
St. Louis native Blake Strode has repeated his 2010 championship run at the this year's U.S. Open National Playoffs at the Connecticut Tennis Center at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
Strode defeated Australian Nathan Healey 7-68, 7-64.
By winning the tournament, Strode receives a wild card into the 2011 U.S. Open Qualifying Tournament to be held August 23-26, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.
In 2009 Strode deferred Harvard Law School to pursue a professional tennis career, a move that paid off in a victory by winning the USTA Southwest Sectional Qualifying Tournament. Strode grew into tennis as a member of his local NJTL chapter in Ferguson, Missouri, and developed into an All-American for the University of Arkansas.
The men’s final was delayed by more than two hours due to rain, with Strode serving at 1-1, 40-0. Play was moved indoors and the quick courts led to easy service holds throughout the set, with no break point opportunities.
In the tiebreaker, both players held mini-break advantages on several occasions. Strode was the first to hold a set point opportunity at 6-5, and then Healey had his own opportunity to close out the set at 8-7. In the end, a backhand sent wide from Healey at 9-8 wrapped up the opening set.
“Honestly, that tiebreak is a blur now,” said Strode. “There was a goofy volley on set point that I missed and some bad calls on both sides. I was just able to hang on in the end.”
A forehand winner from Strode in the opening game of the second set gave him an immediate service break off Healey’s serve. The Aussie veteran had a break point opportunity at 3-2 in the second set, but was unable to convert.
With Strode serving for the championship at 5-4, the timing on his shots began to abandon him. A forehand error on Healey’s first break point opportunity leveled the match at 5-5, but a backhand passing shot in the next service game gave Strode the break back at 6-5. Serving for the match once again, Strode was unable to convert and another tiebreak took place.
“It was more that he played a couple of very good return games rather than me choking or missing a couple of easy shots,” said Strode. “There’s a reason he has accomplished all he has.”
The players remained on serve in the tiebreaker until 4-4, when a slice backhand into the net from Healey gave Strode the mini-break. On his first match point at 6-4, a backhand sent long from Healey wrapped up the match and secured Strode a spot in the US Open qualifying draw.
“It’s really cool to be the inaugural champion and then come back to win it again,” said Strode. “I’m just really glad they have this because it’s gotten me into the US Open twice now!”