- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Bob Bryan’s first set tiebreaker win paid huge dividends.

Not only did it start his 7-6, 6-4 win over Amer Delic, but it helped him relax during the 3-hour rain delay that took place between the sets.

While most of the fans attending the Legg Mason Tennis Classic yesterday headed for the exits, Bryan kicked back with some of his tennis compares and pigged out.

“[I] ate a lot of cookies,” Bryan said. “I ate some pasta, but mostly cookies. It feels good to be up a set. Then you can be a person and not just be bitter.”

Heavy rain led to two rain delays that lasted a combined 250 minutes, leaving the William H.G. FitzGerald Center with four puddle-filled hard courts.

After having their match delayed at 6:25 p.m. right after the first set ended, Bryan and Delic resumed play at 9:55.

The match pitted two NCAA singles champions, with Bryan winning the 1998 title while at Stanford and Delic winning this year’s at Illinois.

While Bryan has played in 48 more career matches than Delic, the soon-to-be college senior was impressive at times in only his second ATP event after playing in the RCA Championships in Indianapolis over the weekend.

Bryan expected the match to be a “server’s duel” and his prediction came true. After both players held serve to open the second set tied at 4, Bryan finally broke Delic’s serve and then coasted to the winning sixth point.

Delic finished with 14 aces, 11 of which came in the first set.

“The guy was serving cannons,” Bryan said. “He hit a couple 130 [mph] serves and I just put my racket out and knocked them down. You really don’t know where the ball’s going to go on a 130 serve. I was serving good too so that takes the pressure off you.”

As a reward for winning, Bryan gets a second round date with Andy Roddick, the second-ranked player on the ATP.

“He’s probably favored,” Bryan said with a smile. “I’m going to go out there and have fun. It’d be interesting to see how I match up with a top 10 player right now. I don’t have high expectations of the match. I’m not going to be a coward though. I’m going to try to win, but I’m not going to cry about it if I lose.”

The day got off to an ominous start with a 40-minute rain delay, and only three matches were able to be completed before another rain outburst stalled the action.

In the stadium court, Lars Burgsmuller of Germany breezed past American Robert Kendrick 6-3, 6-2.

Also, Gregory Carraz defeated Harel Levy 7-6, 6-4 and Mike Bryan knocked out local favorite Andrew Carlson 6-1, 6-3.

Carlson, a native of Gambrill, Md., overcame his jitters to take a brief 3-2 lead in the second set before Bryan rattled off four points for the straight sets victory.

“I calmed down a little in the second set and actually took the lead, but then my anxiety got to me again,” Carlson said.

While most of the fans headed for the exits during the second rain delay, tournament officials kept a close guy on the weather radar and expected a dry spell to come in two hours. Once the rain ceased as predicted, workers hurriedly began to push the rain off the court and dry the hard surface with rolling blow dryers that resembled lawnmowers.

Despite the long delays, only four of the 14 matches yesterday were officially postponed. The rescheduled matches will all be worked into the regular singles schedule, which is expected to start on time today at 4 p.m.

Nerves take out Carlson

The nerves kicked in two weeks ago for Andrew Carlson.

The Gambrills, Md., native had won the Legg Mason Wild Card Challenge in mid-June to earn a spot in the main draw.

As the date for his first ever ATP event neared, Carlson stopped eating for long stretches and ended up losing 10 pounds.

When it finally came time to play yesterday, he had to wait out a 40-minute rain delay. Once the weather cleared, there was no doubting Carlson’s hometown favorite status as he received the loudest cheers of the afternoon.

The extra attention only added to Carlson’s internal pressure that stayed with him throughout his 6-1, 6-3 loss to Mike Bryan.

“My anxiety level was so high out there,” said Carlson, who went to Arundel High School. “I’ve never had a crowd like that before. I couldn’t get my breathing under control at all. I couldn’t catch a breath. My heart was beating 1,000 times a minute.”

Carlson estimated that he had “about 100” friends and family in attendance, including his parents who were seeing him play for the first time in more than a year. It was an emotional week for his family, as Carlson’s grandmother died three days earlier.

“That didn’t help,” he said.

Yet, Carlson remained determined to play in the biggest match of his life. In the two years since graduating from Ohio State, Carlson has gone through surgery on his left knee and followed that with an ankle injury.

The setbacks have stalled his pro career, which was given a boost when he beat Bear Schofield of McLean, Va., 6-1, 6-2, in the wild-card finals on June 15.

Carlson also earned the doubles wild card that day with partner Christopher Groer, so his work this week is hardly finished.

Regardless of what happens, though, Carlson will use his Legg Mason experience as a springboard for what he hopes to be a long professional career.

“It can only get better from here,” Carlson said. “It’s funny, I met Todd Martin a couple of days ago and the first thing he said to me was, ‘You need to gain some weight.’ So if I just get my anxiety under control and do some more training, I think I’m right there.”

D.C. likes tennis

The United States Tennis Association and the Tennis Industry Association recently conducted a participation study to establish a benchmark of who is playing tennis throughout America and to identify challenges and opportunities to increase participation.

The District, compared to the 50 states, has one of the highest percentage of its population playing tennis. At 11.8 percent, D.C. is ranked fourth in the U.S. There are 60,000 tennis players in the District, with 10,000 listed as beginning players, 40,000 are regular players and 10,000 are frequent players.

New Jersey leads the country with 13.1 percent of its population playing tennis, followed by Maryland at 12.9. Minnesota is third at 12.5 percent. Virginia is tied for seventh with New York at 10.3 percent.

Some of the national findings include:

• 23.5 million Americans play tennis (defined as at least one time in the past 12 months), with participation holding steady over the past three years.

• Growth in participation among new players is fueled by increased play among younger players (under the age of 18), African-Americans and Hispanics.

• More than 5.1 million new players, 13.3 million continuing players and 5.1 million rejoining players (those who returned to playing after at least a year off) constitute the U.S. tennis playing population.

• The increase in new players is offset by losses in the player base: there are over 20 million lapsed players, those who at one time regularly played, but do so no longer.

USTA chairman Alan Schwartz is passionate about expanding the sport.

“The first challenge is to make the first lesson a positive one,” Schwartz said. “The league teams also help by providing other people to play. We spent over $1 million to improve the game. African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians participation has increased. I want to make tennis an [all]-American sport and not just for the [privileged].

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